Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Brooklyn blogs, AY, and the class issue

Yesterday's Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC included a segment titled Welcome to Bloglyn, featuring the bloggers behind Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn (OTBKB), BushwickBK, and Bed-Stuy Blog.

Lumi Rolley of NoLandGrab called in to explain what NLG does--an information portal taking a critical position on a controversy rather than a neighborhood-centric blog.

OTBKB's Louise Crawford observed, "I think when the history of Brooklyn blogging is written, it will be noted that the rise of Brooklyn blogging and the Atlantic Yards issue, and the use of the blog in that issue--

Lehrer interjected, "--happened at the same time."

Crawford continued, "It was just sort of a confluence of events--there were a lot of emails going out, initially, emails of information, and then the blogs."

(I've written that AY is the likely source of Clinton Hill's dubious designation as the country's "bloggiest" neighborhood.)

Who blogs?

Lehrer observed, "One of the criticisms people have, or observations, of the concentration of bloggers in inner Brooklyn, is, well, who generally has the time or the resources to be a blogger, they tend to be mostly white, mostly middle-class people.... It doesn't break down completely neatly in the Atlantic Yards controversy, but, to some degree tends to break down along those lines. It would tend to be the anti-Atlantic Yards people who would be blogging a lot."

Crawford went on to explain how bloggers have begun a roadshow, meeting in various neighborhoods to try to encourage a wider spectrum of bloggers. Still, I think Lehrer's analysis is simplistic.

First, there's a lot more to criticize and analyze about AY than to praise. My critical take on Atlantic Yards emerged not from knee-jerk opposition to the project but from an immersion in the details. A pro-Atlantic Yards blog might simply copy the infrequently updated AtlanticYards.com.

Second, if Forest City Ratner wanted more pro-Atlantic Yards blogs, it could pay to create them, as it paid for the Brooklyn Standard and helped support Brooklyn Tomorrow, both "publications" more than newspapers. Given the large sums spent on by the developer on p.r., much of which gets some media coverage, is the playing field really level?

Third, whether or not those of us using the blog format--both seat-of-the-pants bloggers and veteran journalists--come from a specific class background, we're still democratizing the flow of information compared to the constrained media attention to Brooklyn and its controversies.

And I don't see Lehrer and others who repeat the class criticism doing a head count of the reporters in, say, the New York Times's Brooklyn bureau to make sure they accurately represent the borough's diversity.

Obviously, specific identities--including race, class, language, religion, ethnicity, political outlook, geography, and age--can help a journalist gain understanding of certain worlds. But identity does not dictate analysis. As with all journalism, the challenge for bloggers is to do research and analysis to try to understand the issues.

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