As much as I like to talk about how blogging opens up new doors in citizen communication and how empowering all of us to be reporting on the news and analyzing the events of the day lets us take a significant step closer to an informed democracy and better world, it’s distressing to see how frequently the blogosphere is sidetracked by the stupid, mundane or trivial. We’re not just talking about not seeing the proverbial forest for the trees, we’re talking about running headlong into the tree while watching the ants march along the floor of the forest.
The latest example of this is the meme buzzing around about how the area of the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) where victims of Hurricane Katrina apply for aid and emergency loans apparently requires that the user have Microsoft’s popular Internet Explorer Web browser.
From the rabid Apple fans who swear up and down that it should be Safari compatible to the open source groupies who insist that if it doesn’t support Firefox that somehow the government is failing in its obligation to be “for the people”, it’s astonishing how much energy is being wasted on this debate.
Here, take a sec and click on this Technorati search on FEMA and Firefox or Safari or MSIE or IE. In the last few days, over 442 bloggers have written on this subject, twenty (now 21) in the last few hours.
I have the sense that this is the equivalent of the cliché about Nero fiddling while Rome burns: there are a lot of important and relevant discussions to have about FEMA and how it is structured and handles disasters and catastropies, but goodness sakes, fellow bloggers:
does it really matter one iota what browsers are or aren’t supported by their Web site?
There’s an interesting observation here about the unsung value of editorial direction, perhaps, that makes me wonder what a newspaper would look like if every reporter simply wrote about what caught their fancy without an editor and publisher molding all of that data and reporting into a coherent, thoughtful, and balanced whole too…
It’s also akin to a film without a director, isn’t it? Lots of vignettes, some of which might be brilliant, but put together, it’s not a movie.
For the blogosphere to really become an important venue for public discourse, I think it’s high time that bloggers started to try looking more at the big picture, weighing what’s important and what isn’t, and making some rudimentary editorial decisions about what to write about.
Otherwise, I fear that we’ll continue to be drowning in a sea of trivia, desperately searching for even one or two thoughtful essays from citizen journalists who just happen to be publishing blogs…