The Problem With Blogs | Valerie Schmalz | June 9, 2005

The Problem With Blogs | Valerie Schmalz | June 9, 2005

In this final part of a four-part series on Catholic blogging, a number of bloggers were asked to comment on the problems and weaknesses - real and potential - with blogging, both for bloggers and readers of blogs. Here is what they had to say.

Mark Sullivan, the Irish Elk:
The grain-of-salt rule has to apply. Blogs are unfiltered, and for those so inclined, fever swamps and black helicopters abound. If you're only reading the same set of conservative blogs, or liberal blogs or radical blogs, you're encountering the same echo-chamber effect that marks the Boston Globe Letters Section. That said, a responsible blog holds itself - and is held - responsible by its readers, and when called upon a mistake, will issue an instant correction: A good blog is interactive, and responsive, in a way a newspaper often isn't.

Steven Sanchez, BeingsorNothingness
I often find the lack of fact checking to be quite detrimental. Information is shared so fast and so easily that a scandal or a rumor can very quickly be passed along as the "truth."

Barbara Nicolosi, Church of the Masses:
Blogging can foster narcissism.  There are a lot of people blogging who really have nothing to say.  They are reaching out into cyberspace for some kind of connection, but they would do better to read the best bloggers and restrict themselves to the comment boxes there. 

Andrew Cusack:

Well, at the end of the day any halfwit can start a blog, and the potential for disinformation is massive.

Christopher Blosser, Against the Grain:
The potential to let your participation in blogging, or emailing, or an online forum or community, replace your engagement in non-virtual activities. Not that online conversations are any less substantial and genuine than face-to-face encounters, but like any good thing, blogging is best done in moderation. Don't forget to read books, visit museums, hang out with your friends, be a part of the world beyond the computer. If you find you can't go a day without blogging, or thinking about blogging, it may be time to abstain for a bit.

Jeff Miller, The Curt Jester:
Most of the criticisms I have heard have been from people in the Main Stream Media that somehow see blogs as a threat to "real journalism." The disparaging comments have been about bloggers wearing pajamas and blogging from a computer in a basement somewhere. That since they don't have a degree in journalism some how they are not allowed to comment on or challenge a story. What I think might be valid areas for criticism of blogs applies to how easily and rapidly you can post on a subject. Sometimes we might react to a story with less than a charitable heart or to read more into some quote in a story then is actually there. It can be very easy to post in the heat of the moment and then later to realize that what you wrote wasn't very prudent.

Blogs can suffer from the very things that effect all human writing. As persons with a fallen nature we can expect the effects of that in how ideas get communicated. Whatever wrong and just plain immoral ideas we see advocated in public life we will also see advocated in blogs. Though for the most part the large majority of self-identifying Catholic blogs are faithful to the Church and try to the best of their ability to present a truly Catholic viewpoint.

Tom Kreitzberg, Disputations:

Reinforced negativity, reflexive commenting, and a relentless appetite for gossip are all found in unhealthy concentrations in St. Blog's. In part, that's the nature of Internet communication, but I think there's a belligerent spirit swirling through American Catholicism these days that amplifies the belligerence. If we see the church as "Us" against "Them," then the more "Us" gather in one circle of blogs and "Them" in another, the more polarized and less charitable the discussion becomes.

Kathy Schaidle, Relapsed Catholic:
There are a lot of silly bloggers out there, but what non-bloggers don’t realize is that these people are not taken seriously. They are the online equivalent of village idiots. And even really reputable bloggers rush to post things they probably shouldn’t, things that make their way around the web (and then maybe into the mainstream media). However, part of the ethos of blogging is that one admits posting dubious information when presented with the facts. Failure to do so means your reputation takes a hit, and you’ll lose readership, links, and standing in the search engines.

Edward Peters, A Canon Lawyer’s Blog:
Most bloggers don’t take time to reflect on issues beyond the surface (some very embarrassing overreactions have appeared even in well-known blogs), many blogs are unduly idiosyncratic, and their post-a-comment pages frequently give space to crackpots and weirdos, or at least, to people who can’t stay on point and who distract attention from the real issues.

Jeff Culbreath, Hallowed Ground and El Camino Real:

Blogging and blog reading can become an incredible waste of time. I think it is for most people, myself included.

Amy Welborn, Open Book:

None. Why? Because "blog" covers a number of different formats. To criticize blogs for being free from traditional journalistic standards, for example, doesn't wash because most blogs aren't attempts to do journalism – they're opinion.

I take that back – there is a tendency for blogs and bloggers to get ingrown – to devote themselves to inter-blog wars and in jokes. I'm not particularly interested in that.

• Part 1: "Invasion of the Catholic Bloggers" | The world of Catholic bloggers is a window into contemporary and orthodox Catholic thought that takes Pope John Paul II's call for a new evangelization and turns it into a worldwide discussion of faith, morals, politics, and plain old daily life. So why do bloggers blog and what do they hope to accomplish in cyberspace?

• Part 2: "What Blogs Do Catholic Bloggers Read?" | Catholic bloggers talk about the blogs they read - and why they read them.

• Part 3: "Why Blog? Catholic Bloggers Post Their Reasons " | Bloggers are asked about the contributions, value, and uniqueness of Catholic blogs. In short: why blog? Here are the answers.

Valerie Schmalz is a writer for IgnatiusInsight. She worked as a reporter and editor for The Associated Press, and in print and broadcast media for ten years. She holds a BA in Government from University of San Francisco and a Master of Science from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. She is the former director of Birthright of San Francisco. Valerie and her wonderful husband have four children.

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