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Leaders, parties and businesses that ignore Blogosphere do so at their peril

Almost hate to admit it, but I am old enough to remember the advent of television in Canada. In Montreal, in the early 1950s, it all began with two television stations: CBMT (English) and CBFT (French), and we would watch, mesmerized by anything they broadcast',even the Indian head test patterns, with their various very technical-looking circles and numbered vertical and horizontal lines. This was almost science fiction come to life!

And television began to offer newscasts, initially mostly talking heads but with MOVING PICTURES  of news events. Wow! Think of the possibilities! Something that happened in Montreal could be seen the same day; New York or even London or Paris. Stories we used to see a week later in theatres could be seen within a day or so right there in our home! 

The newspapers, like the Montreal Star and The Gazette, however, remained quite confident and even smug: while TV might offer moving snippets or brief stories, it could not offer the depth and analysis of newspaper coverage.

Well, The Star is long gone and the Gazette, in my view, is a pathetic shadow of what newspapers used to be. Now readers get basically a shallow spiritless chronicle with pages bulked up with assembly-line-like  feature-style puff pieces. Sound familiar?

No wonder MOST Montrealers and most Canadians  these days get their news on television. 

Today, even television news, like newspapers and magazines, faces a huge challenge: the Internet. And the blogosphere, with all its wisdom and warts,  is a real part of the world’s fastest-epanding  information source--read, followed and contributed to by millions across North America each day.

And throughout the rest of Canada and most of the United States, political, corporate and even advertising leaders have long understood and responded tothe potential of the Interet … and the blogosphere.

NBC News,  FOUR YEARS AGO, covered the growing number and influence of blogs;  The Globe And Mail reported that not only are blogs now part “of the broadcast medium” they are actually changing the political scene.

“It’s not a matter of the relatively small numbers of people who actually write and read blogs: it’s a matter of their overwhelming effects relative to their relatively small number,” the Globe found four years ago. And  the blogosphere, including those who write them, read them and comment on them, has grown massively since then.

The blogosphere offers direct democratic expression and more widespread, instant reaction and discussion of ideas and events than any other medium.

Anyone in 2010 who is in the business of leading, understanding,  manipulating, responding to or marketing in the public sphere--especially trying to reach those under 40 years old--should not only acknowldege the blogosphere but pursue it with vigour.

But for some reason,  B.C. is lagging behind: the blogosphere is still not taken seriously enough by those  movers and shakers who should know better. And that can hurt their effectiveness.

For example, it’s more than a week now since I called the BC NDP Party to obtain some information for a posting I was preparing for my blog.  I left a voicemail message on their “media”  line, explaining that although now retired as a news reporter, I do a blog and wanted some information. Twice I gave my phone number. No one ever returned my call.  That didn’t stop my blog from being written:  it only omitted information the NDP brass might have liked to be included!

Does the BC NDP not see blogs and bloggers as worthy of responding to, or have they forgotten that it’s only AFTER you take power that you don’t return phone calls?

Readers will also recall the difficulties I had getting a response from The Vancouver Sun and The Province when I blogged about concerns over news  stories that appeared side by side with ads promoting the very technology their stories wrote about--the same stories and ads in both papers, without any indication there was any “advertorial”  links between them.  The Sun did provide an explanation, two weeks later, after repeated requests; The Province never did answer the questions..

Their responses were totally unacceptable, in my opinion, from “news” organizations that expect responses to their questions within minutes or hours from those they write about  but apparently still don’t adequately respect the blogosphere or those who write or read them to respond in kind.

And there was even a column in the Vancouver Courier by one of my favorite writers, Alllen Garr, urging Vision council to ignore bloggers. As if they don’t really count or amount to much. Reminded me of the Montreal Star’s attitude to television!

There are hundreds of thousands of readers (or should I say voters?)  who daily check out BC blogs and many of them participate in their discussions.  And while newspapers are struggling and TV News audiences are stagnant, the blogosphere is growing. 

Like all other media, of course, readers should be discerning. But the blogoshere is here now, and will only grow.

Politicians, parties or businesses that ignore it do so at their own peril.

This column originally appeared in Mr. Oberfeld's blog, Keeping it Real. Reprinted with his kind permission.