Bloomberg to Bloggers (Us): Stop Dumbing Down Society; We’re Trying, Mr. Mayor!


On Wikipedia, a blog is defined as a “discussion or informational site published on the World Wide Web and consisting of discrete entries (“posts”) typically displayed in reverse chronological order (the most recent post appears first). As you’re reading this, you are on the Village Voice‘s Runnin’ Scared news blog and this is a post about how Bloomberg thinks this said post, and others like it, have “dumbed down” the populace. We live in the post-post-modern age; think ‘meta’ for a second.

In an interview with The Atlantic, the Hozziner criticized people like us (the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad bloggers) for lessening the national intelligence on how we perceive, understand and react to news. However, the Mayor is still unsure just exactly what a blog is. This lack of definition was seen in his inability to distinguish a blog from a newspaper: “I don’t know what the difference between a blog and a newspaper is… sometimes they have different standards, even under the same logo and name.”

A key part in Bloomberg’s argument – and he’s certainly not the only one to believe this – is that the ‘blogosphere’ (2006, can you hear me?) creates this overload of information where the truth disappears somewhere in the vapor of the Interwebs. And this may be true but it underlies a main motive of what the blogs are meant to do: take a news story, analyze its players and come to a conclusion beyond the headline.

This is exactly what I’m doing right now (or at least trying to do) with this story about Bloomberg’s anti-blog rhetoric. Everything is ‘meta,’ remember?

Every blog is guilty of rehashing stories to a certain extent; the best blogs are those that provide alternate reporting to that of the mainstream media by localizing issues (for residents nearby, think: EV Grieve, Neighborhoodr and… us; another blog essential: shameless self-promotion) in order to grasp a side of the story that may or may not appear on the front page of, say, the New York Times. A problem with all this rehashing – and this is where alot of criticism towards the Huffington Post and numerous other publications comes from – is attribution; if you’re going to reblog something, at least tell the people where the news story you’re perceiving in a different angle came from. 
But there can be some truth in Bloomberg’s words; one dramatic side-effect of blogs, hyper-driven by social media and several other factors, is just how fast you spit out stories for your audience without giving said stories the proper care you deserve. We live in a world where the deadline is constantly now and page views drive content more so than substance. It’s sad but an inevitable result of the 24/7 news cycle, both on television and the Internet. If we don’t understand that, we’ve already lost the race for information.
And, with all of this information hammering at us constantly, whether it’s on our Facebooks, Twitters, Tumblrs, RSS feeds (what are those?), Reddit front pages or wherever else you find yourself scrolling to oblivion, our minds are rewired to fit twenty headlines into our memory in less than a minute. We’ve heard this all before: we’re becoming Google-oriented citizens, with the infinite knowledge of the Internet at our fingertips, sorting through it faster than fiber optics. With this happening in the background, those twenty headlines become irrelevant; they became cannon fodder for our ‘news feeds,’ which are more oriented towards knowing a little bit about everything rather than a lot about something. In the modern age, there’s no time for unilateral thinking.
So, Mr. Bloomberg, we can see where your vitriol comes from. But it’s not the entire fault of blogs for doing this: this degradation of how we capture information is part of something much bigger. And, as a news blog, we’re trying our best to take that information and present it in a way that keeps the citizen thinking, not crunching, all these numbers. The universality of the Internet demands that we are all responsible, in some form or another, for the information that’s out there and what we can do with it.
This is a blog and you are reading a post about how the Mayor of New York City thinks this is all stupid.
Think ‘meta,’ remember?