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« Professor talks war blogging - Kaimin | Main | Wisconsin Public Radio interview: "'Netted: Life Online" »

October 17, 2005

Fifth annual Pollner lecture draws big crowd

Link: Fifth Annual Pollner Lecture.

News & Events • October 2005

Fifth annual Pollner lecture draws big crowd

By ANNE E. PETTINGER
J-School Web Reporter

photo by Ryan Brennecke
Blogs have power because they are interactive and more personal, Boese said.

A visiting journalism professor who kept prominent war blogs from the Iraq war says she often feels trapped between two worlds: one of traditional media and one in the blogosphere.

Christine Boese’s Oct. 10 lecture, “Big Media and Little Bloggers: How corporate media responded to war-blogging journalists,” addressed tensions that arise when mainstream media and bloggers go after the same story but in different ways.

“What does little David have in his slingshot that is making Goliath sit up and take notice?” Boese asked

This year's T. Anthony Pollner Distinguished Professor, Boese delivered the annual Pollner lecture to a group of about 150 people in the University Center Theater.

Boese was writing for the “ticker” at CNN Headline News when the war in Iraq began. She said she had felt uncomfortable ever since the events of Sept. 11. “The thing that shook me up the worst was the uncertainty,” she said.

That uncertainty was magnified by her placement in two different journalism traditions: one in the mainstream media she was exposed to at CNN, and one in the blogosphere, where stories would break but often weren’t regarded as credible by the mainstream media.

“I didn’t know, or trust, whether or not the military would allow accurate reporting,” Boese said. “Most of the time I doubted what the so-called official sources were telling us.”

A long-time blogger herself, Boese wanted information when the war began from journalists who were in Iraq but not embedded with the military.

“I wanted to know I had sources on the ground in Iraq who were independent of the U.S. military,” she said. “I wanted to build their blogs so I could read their blogs.”

Boese met two journalists online and eventually became the keeper of their blogs. Carolina Podesta, an Argentinean journalist, wrote a blog that was featured on Argentinean television early in the war. At its most popular, her site was getting nearly 1,000 hits per day.

photo by Ryan Brennecke
Members of the Pollner family visited Boese's seminar on Oct. 10

Josh Kucera’s blog also grew popular. Eventually, after the Boston Globe wrote an article about Kucera’s blog, Time magazine, Kucera’s employer, demanded that he stop posting to his site.

For Boese, that demand raised important questions about the ownership of ideas. “Can employers lay claim to what Josh [and others] do when they’re off the clock?” she asked.

Stifling intellectual freedom in that way is a disservice to readers, she said, because blogs offer strengths that differ from the strengths of traditional media. A major strength of blogs is that they encourage readers to interact with what they read, rather than simply providing facts, which encourages readers to remain childlike, Boese said.

Mainstream journalists often cite credibility as a reason for following traditional journalism guidelines. But, Boese asked, “what if credibility is casting readers into the role of perpetual children?” News should be a conversation, not a lecture, she added.

Blogs are also noted for being more personal than traditional media and often seem more like letters home than a news story. “It is incidental, off-hand observations that I think give blogs their power,” she said.

But despite their strengths, blogs don’t signal the end of traditional media, she said.

“Blogs couldn’t survive without newspapers,” she said during a question-and-answer session following the lecture.

Boese is the School of Journalism’s fifth T. Anthony Pollner Distinguished Professor, a position made possible by family and friends of Anthony Pollner, a graduate of the School of Journalism who died in 2001. The Pollner professor spends the fall semester at the Journalism School, teaches a seminar and mentors the staff of the Montana Kaimin.

Previous Pollner professors were Jonathan Weber, a former reporter at the Los Angeles Times and editor of the Industry Standard, the fastest-growing magazine in American history; Tom Cheatham, a former UPI war correspondent and Emmy-award-winning producer and bureau chief for NBC News; Maurice Possley, a criminal justice investigative reporter for the Chicago Tribune; and Nancy Szokan, an editor at the Washington Post.

October 17, 2005 in Citations, Journalism, Portfolio, Television, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink

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