This is not news

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Andrew Orlowski published an article at the Register titled “Blog Ambulance Chasers”. In it, he quoted my recent post, Stop, as well as Seth Finklestein’s London Bloggings and Blog Evangelism.

Orlowski wrote:

No human disaster these days is complete without two things, both of which can be guaranteed to surface within 24 hours of the event.

First, virus writers will release a topical new piece of malware. And then weblog evangelists proclaim how terrific the catastrophe is for the internet. It doesn’t seem to matter how high the bodies are piled – neither party can be deterred from its task.

Later he concludes:

So who’s more tasteless, the VXers or the technology evangelists? Both represent extremes of cynicism, but in one way, it’s the latter. Just as some people find that they can sit impassively through TV coverage of human carnage, only to be moved by an image of an injured pet, others only see a human tragedy when it’s validated by a computer network.

First of all, I want to provide the links to sources omitted in the article:

Guardian story
Blogger quote at Doc Searl’s (with bad URL)
Blogger quote

Orlowski has a good point: is a tragedy more ‘real’ just because it’s traversed routers? Do we need to see 500 instances of the same photo, scraped from TV, to validate our experiences? Do we need to have a thousand pundits start bashing each other about causes, while the bodies are still being carried out? Must we link to each other with breathless exclamations of “so and so” has the latest “breaking” news on the story — followed by some outlandish rumor? (Do webloggers know how silly it is to write such things in their weblogs? Or are links worth the cost to their dignity?)

More importantly, why do we have to go through this validation ritual every time events happen?

At the same time, though, Orlowski also takes some of this discussion out of context. Dean Landsman, the blogger Orlowski quoted without attribution, also wrote:

The blogosphere offers a sense of inidviduality(sic) in presentation, unlike most newspaper or electronic media (TV/cable/satellite networks). It allows for immediate updates, edits, further posts, comments and reaction.

I agree with Dean’s sentiment; I just don’t agree that this sentiment needs to be the focus. We’re not the story, the story is out there.

I was grateful for the link to the Wikipedia page on the London Bombing, and even more grateful to hear that those people I know who live in the area were unharmed. I was fascinated by the story Hugh MacLeod told, about being so close and totally unaware of the event. I appreciated Gary Turner’s minimalist responses, and Euan Semple’s description of the Londoner response: business as usual.

But I still turned to the BBC for real news.

Having said all this, I’m afraid that Orlowski is going to be disappointed in me, because I’m going to indulge in a bit of writing about an event, and it does fall within his 24 hour mark. No, I’m not going to write about the London bombs: I’m going to write about Hurricane Dennis. I know that some would consider doing so a Cable Cliche, whatever that means. But Missouri has a lot riding on this storm; not as much as some states, but a lot. And I’m not writing news, I’m telling a story.

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