I’ve become a source. But I’ll get to that in a minute. I’ve spent the last 6.5 business days studying journalism. The weekend in between was partly spent writing about journalism and partly spent riding in a car, and partly spent, um, imbibing in adult beverages at a fantastic wedding party (I danced, too, but that’s off the record). As someone who was (is) hardly trained as a journalist in the traditional fashion, I have been soaking up things that most journalists learn in 101—things like the roles of the different parties (source, expert, public, etc.) and the role of the journalist in relation to those parties. But I’m not here to study traditional journalism. I’m here to study how to improve it by making the public not just read and gain knowledge, but to read and then find out how to create more knowledge. Well, if you’re still with me, new media is a way for this to happen. It’s a way that I believe will drive it, in fact.
In a simple, but useable example, I will point to blogging as a medium in my new philosophy. Blogs, while hardly traditional and often times less than credible, are a way for the general public to create their own knowledge, rather than relying on experts and policymakers to create it and pass it on. And this political season, local blogs have emerged at a rate I’ve never seen around this place.
I originally began doing stuff like blogging in 2001. I think it was in May or something, and all of what I did then is now gone (I have it saved, but it’s far too much of a pain in the ass to put it online, plus it really sucked). Last election, I don’t believe there was anyone here talking about it on the internet. This time, it’s front and center for a lot of us. We check to see what’s being said about candidates on the blogs we’re used to, we comment, and we gather up information. Sometimes, we even create a bit of our own knowledge while we’re at it. By reading all of the comments that are on other blogs, the user can become their own sort of expert and be a unique holder of knowledge that may not exist elsewhere.
I would have told you a few weeks ago that I was primarily a gathering place for information. People sent it to me, I found it, and I talked about it. Now, with school controlling my life, I’ve stopped being that person. I am, however, still a holder of some info. So I switched roles yesterday. I’ve long held that my reason for discussing politics is that I am an interested citizen. I certainly have biases, but I am hardly a partisan. So what I have always looked to point out is dishonesty in the discourse in politics. If someone is saying something untrue, or someone is arguing a point that is based in very poor logic or twisted facts, I will call them on it. So most things I say are antagonistic, not friendly to a candidate or self-professed “pundit” or “consultant” (and why are consultants such asses who won’t even answer simple questions?).
Since the beginning, I’ve kept an eye on the Cobb Gobbler. And I’ve tried to at least keep him honest. While I get that it’s not always going to be possible, being as the Cobb Gobbler’s entire point is to destroy one candidate, I figure that at least I can point out fallacies. One such time, I pointed out that by simply throwing pictures of an unbuilt house online, you can’t prove that Ty Cobb wasn’t living there when he claims to have been doing so. I was told to investigate it. Well, there’s something inherently difficult in investigating pictures that were supposedly taken on February 17, but presented to the public at the end of July. How might I go about doing that? I’ll tell you. I downloaded the pictures, checked EXIF data, found that there was none available, and called the post unsubstantiatable (probably not a word, actually). As far as I’m concerned, that’s a reasonable doubt.
The most recent of these was the claim that Ty Cobb is the only candidate in his district who has gone negative. I knew for a fact that one of his opponents, Mike Dillon, went negative a few weeks before the Ty Cobb mailer. So I mentioned it, and produced the goods. My transition to source was complete. And it fits perfectly in with the new media. I had hoarded the info, then used it to help create knowledge.
I wrote all this today because I’m not sure if the Cobb Gobbler will use it. If he doesn’t, I guess in the interest of fairness, and as a task of my mission, I’ll have to show them myself. That’s another wonderful thing about the new media—I can put it all here if I’m not satisfied.
Ryan Jerz is an all-around good guy who shoots photos and video, builds websites, and works in athletics at the University of Nevada, where he handles the department's digital presence, including online and in stadiums and arenas. Ryan is also a digital production instructor at Nevada's Reynolds School of Journalism.