What’s Next Blog Interviews With Successful Bloggers:
English language media, and particularly American bloggers are xenophobic, says former CNN bureau chief turned blogger Rebecca MacKinnon. If they even cover world events, she says, they cover them very simplistically and only link to what mainstream media covers in rest of the world. Because of their narrow view, they miss a lot of stories and trends. “There are huge blogging communities developing around the work telling you stuff that you’d never get from mainstream media,” she says.
In 2004, MacKinnon left a six-figure job at CNN, where she was Tokyo Bureau Chief and correspondent, to do a fellowship at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy. It is an absolutely worthwhile tradeoff, she says emphatically. She wanted to experiment with ways a journalist could use blogs to go beyond traditional reporting. “I feel that I am in the middle of new media innovation, working with people on the cutting edge of where media is going in the future,” MacKinnon says.
Today MacKinnon blogs full-time, reading several hundred blogs from around the world through an RSS aggregator and doing a daily round up of their notable posts on GlobalVoices. She produces the blog for The Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, where she is a fellow, as the “Go To” Blog for what bloggers around the world are talking about.
Her personal blog, RConversation covers a variety of global political and cultural issues. The first blog she started was North Korea Zone about North Korean politics and culture.
Creating a worldwide new media community
GlobalVoices roundups cover not just politics, but also trends, new products, popular culture and marketing worldwide. Typical of the range of coverage is today’s roundup, which includes posts about the woman Korean bloggers are calling “dog shit girl”, Thai fishermen who caught a 646 pound fish along with a post about an Arab League journalism student who has been tortured in jail for almost two years, and African bloggers’ posts about Live 8.
“I’m trying to create a service that helps people find useful alternative information and conversations about what people in other countries care about,” she says. The Bloggers in the countries she covers “are credible in aggregate. Once you know their politics, etc you will be able to know how to look at them,” she says.
Global Bloggers Credible in Aggregate
“I was already using blogs as sources for stories, and I wanted to see what a journalist could do with a blog that couldn’t be done with traditional reporting. The issues here are not black and white, but they are covered in main stream media very simplistically.”
A blog is a starting point for sharing information from as many sources as possible. “It’s not so much what’s on the blog as what it’s linking to that defines the value of the blog,” MacKinnon says. She links to fairly obscure information to foster conversation and discussion and to challenge people to think in a more complex way. This creates an information community surrounding a subject of interest.
One way MacKinnon builds traffic for GlobalVoices is by asking A-list bloggers to link to it and cover it. And every day in the global roundup she links to several dozen blogs. “They all get a trackback and come to us and look at our site.” She is hoping globalvoices will be the focus for a community of bloggers around the world.
CNN Owned Me
“I’d been growing increasingly frustrated with CNN and not proud to be working there. At Harvard, my project was blogging. CNN correspondents not allowed to blog. There are some blogging, but it is fake blogging.”
“I also own my own identity. CNN owned me. I actually had to have permission from CNN’s to speak to a kindergarten class. Now I can have any opinion I want now and be as outspoken as I want. I’ve been given this huge sandbox to play with, and I don’t have to be worried about it making money, at least for now.”
Luckily Harvard regards the non-profit blog as a public service. “If we had to wait for a business model that would be a shame.” The response from mainstream media has been very positive. That’s good, she says, because MSM “is badly broken and needs a lot of fixing.”
Journalism Schools Are Completely Useless
Blogs do not replace the job of mainstream media. We still need journalists, MacKinnon says, but they can’t provide personal conversation about what it’s like to be living in that environment. Bloggers humanize far away places in a way that a professional journalist can’t.”
Unfortunately, Journalism schools are completely useless these days, she says. “Professors have barely figured out how to use email.” She’s done guest lecturing at j-schools and been astounded at their ignorance. “At The Boston Globe,” she says, “I asked them how many knew what an RSS feed was or that the paper had one. Nobody raised their hand. They’re just not thinking about the larger context and how people consume their media.”