Our View: Blogs are great, but readers beware

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By The Staff

In today’s world of rapid pace, warp speed information delivery it sometimes seems as though everything happened yesterday. The Internet and cable television have delivered unto us a 24/7 news cycle, which can, in times of disasters, be a good thing. Other times, maybe not, such as when broadcasters are obviously reaching to fill time with yawn-inspiring stories.

An offshoot of this rapid-fire reportage, Web logs or blogs have become must-reads for millions each and every day. Blogs are structured around an owner or owners who typically focus on a fairly narrow range of topics designed to target a given audience. In fact, many newspapers now feature blogs that essentially extend the reach and depth for staff writers who cover given beats.

But blogs run the gamut; essentially anyone with Internet access and a cup of coffee can start a blog. There are some very commercially viable blogs out in the vast blogosphere that have become authoritative sources of information on everything from dancing the polka to parenting. From there, blogs exist on virtually any topic and they range from farcical to satirical to comical, and then there are those that are just downright idiotic.

Ah, the magic of the Internet has empowered thousands with the ability to self-publish — no gatekeeper, no editor, no fact-checkers — the only guide is the blogger’s own inner compass that compels them to either tell the truth, or publish rubbish that is embellished with half-truths, rumors, innuendo, or sheer fabrications out of thin air.

Like a Sunday shopper at the local flea market, let the blog reader beware. In most cases, responsible bloggers identify themselves; explain their backgrounds and why they may be authoritative sources for information on the topic at hand. But like so many other areas of the vast cyberspace, bloggers are not compelled to identify themselves and, in many cases, they establish a bogus persona to hide behind. Much like the authorities who pose as underage children in chat rooms to catch pedophiles, an anonymous blogger can use a fake identity to capture readers who might otherwise pass right on by.

Locally, the blog scene seems to be more adversarial in nature than in some other locales around the country. Bloggers around here like to joust with the lab, take pot-shots at county government, or even invest countless words bloviating about the good ol’ days at the Black Hole salvage yard.

Our own Carol A. Clark even has a NewsExtras blog where she gives some behind-the-scenes views on Los Alamos newsmakers.

One blog that seems to be capturing the attention of locals these days bears the moniker of a fictitious fire-breathing movie monster that had a penchant for wreaking havoc with the hapless Japanese and their cities. The blog focuses primarily on the writer’s perceived shortcomings of county government, and while the rabidity of the discourse may be entertaining and thought-provoking, there’s a certain credibility issue in lending too much credence to a blogger masquerading as a B-movie miscreation.

The credulity of the reader is tested even further through copious comments, the bulk of which are also posted by “anonymous.” In the news business, the occasional use of an anonymous source is often the only way to get an important story that might otherwise go unreported.

With so much information — and misinformation — available on the Internet today, anonymity has become almost a norm instead of the exception to the rule. To a certain extent, blogs and bloggers can be judged by the amount of anonymity allowed to prevail. The more open a blogger is with his or her identity along with those of commenters, the more one can lend a sense of credibility to the content; while conversely, those who profer content while cloaked in a façade of anonymity can be viewed as putting forth little more than just so much flapdoodle.