Recent controversies regarding “legacy media”/”MSM” coverage of the U.S. Presidential campaign, especially the troubling memos regarding the President’s experiences during the Vietnam War, have demonstrated a need for conventional media to draw on the vast, dispersed expertise of the blogosphere.
Can this Schumpeterian gale be harnessed? We believe it can. Amidst the jeering, we have formulated a constructive response — a mechanism whereby a symbiotic relationship between blogging and traditional forms of journalism can be deliberately cultivated.
That mechanism is 411blog.net.
Reporters can use it to quickly authenticate highly technical or specialized story elements with subject-matter experts (SMEs) drawn from the best the blogosphere has to offer, including academics, business people, scientists, and lay experts of all kinds. SMEs on 411blog.net also offer reporters another important advantage: As bloggers in addition to subject experts, they are plugged in to the latest internet conversation regarding their subject areas.
Bloggers can use 411blog.net to nominate subject-matter experts, build trust with traditional media, and increase their standing in the blogosphere.
So if you’re a blogger — or even a regular blog reader — we encourage you to:
- Nominate bloggers to serve as subject-matter experts (SMEs). Just tell us the subject and the blog — or blogs; go ahead and suggest as many as you want for a given topic. We’ll contact the bloggers and ask for their permission to list them on 411blog.net. Just one rule: you can’t nominate yourself.
- If you are nominated, of course, we’d like you to agree to serve. What we hope this will mean is the occasional contact from a journalist in need of enlightenment about some obscure element of a story that you are uniquely qualified to explain. The reporter gets the story right, and you get (if you wish) quoted or referred to as the expert. It’s win-win.
- While we expect the service will be used, at first, on stories that don’t have pressing deadlines, we believe that eventually (perhaps surprisingly soon) it will be entirely possible for a reporter with only an hour or two to spare to hit 411blog.net and obtain significant insights. Toward that end, we encourage the SMEs to respond relatively quickly, or hand off the inquiry to someone else in a better position to field it. Remember: there is no limit to what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit (toward that end, we will not accept nominations of ourselves as SMEs).
- Not to overlook the obvious, we’d like you to link to this post.
How this really got started, other than the CBS fake memo flap, was that last Tuesday Jay Manifold was watching CNN Headline News, and Chuck Roberts was struggling to recite this detail: “An angstrom [is] a unit of length measuring the wavelength of light” (itself a somewhat problematic statement), and he said “an angstrom is the smallest wavelength of light.” Or something just about that bad. (See this for a correct definition.) So Jay sent a “peevish” e-mail to me about how “these guys ought to keep a stable of bloggers handy for non-breaking stories like this.” The light bulb clicked on.
I shot a reply back to Jay suggesting we create a web directory specifically to link reporters with bloggers. Reporters could use SMEs as direct sources (i.e. interviews) or ask a blogger to consider a question publicly on his/her blog thus creating a fast knowledge base on a particular topic. Jay went into quality-control/process-design mode and threw together a list of “drivers” and “restrainers” and even did a little Deming process workbench diagram. I lined up the server space and got the front page together (with Jay’s excellent help in writing copy–including this message). We decided to go with what Jay called “approximate truth, rough justice, and the American way, which is to build something fast and fix it later.” So my expectation is that the site will become both more polished and offer more functionality with time and your help.