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Some rambling ruminations on the power of blogging

Matt at BibleFilms made an interesting observation that got me thinking about the influence of blogdom on the larger world, particularly the journalism and film industries. Matt observes a phenomenon taking place surrounding the upcoming New Line film, Nativity:
. . . some Christian reviewers have ignored the usual standard of waiting until a day or two before a film's release before publishing reviews of it. Jeffrey Overstreet is particularly amusing regarding one of those reviews, (primarily because of one or two bizarre comments). It's better is you read it for yourself than have me hack it down to size. The other has been posted at the In the Open Space blog. I'm not sure what to make of this. Personall I plan to hold my review until the film opens, but at the same time I can't see why church leaders are being invited to watch the film unmless they are meant to share their opinions with their congregations and whip up a bit of interest before it is released.
As I said in a comment to Matt’s post, I guess this elevates me from blogger to a bona fide reviewer. Heh.

Seriously, though, Matt’s post took me a bit by surprise. I’ve always thought of blogs as a rather informal presence on the Internet, and I lumped ones that focus on pop culture (like mine) into the same pool as websites that follow industry and film news, like ain’t it cool (which follows a wide variety of industry news) and Queen Spoo, OneRing or MuggleNet (which follow news on specific films). The rules and ediquette are laxer and much more informal in that sphere than the professional press, like Christianity Today or the NY Times. Early reviews and spoilers, for example, are standard fare. So, I didn’t even think twice about posting an early review of Nativity on my blog.

However, there is something worth ruminating on here. BibleFilms is also a blog, but Matt is a professional film reviewer (and a good one at that, which is why his blog is linked on this one). This makes me think perhaps when his worlds mix, his professional role trumps his role as blogger. (Would that be a correct assessment, Matt?)

This makes me think about a couple of things. First, I’ve never given much thought as to why professional film reviewers wait until a few days before the film to release their reviews. Does it have to do with professional courtesy to fellow reviewers and the film? Or is there something more to it? (I asked Matt about this, but he’s on holiday so it will probably take him a few days to answer.)

In the larger realm, all of this also makes me ruminate on the power of blogdom to influence how things are done in the larger world. Blogs are noted for influencing everything from elections (including denominational) to the formation and sustaining of the emerging movement to performing watchdog functions on the professional press. The film and television industries are acutely aware of the power of bloggers and websites to drive up or down viewership and create buzz about a project. Providing screenings of a film weeks before its release date suggests New Line is trying to tap into this influence—which may thwart professional reviewers in that they’ll be “scooped” thus leading some to issue reviews ahead of time. Just a thought.

All this isn’t to say that professionalism isn’t required or very much present in blogdom. Many bloggers (myself included) strive to follow much of the ediquette and rules of professional journalism (with film reviews and spoilers being one of those questionable rules, heh). But the informal nature of blogdom does foster problems. I find that failure to attribute sources (and images) as well as plagerism seem bigger problems than in the professional media. Bloggers usually don’t run through editors, so failure to fact-check and the tendency to foster the rumormill also seem to be problems. I’ve also noticed that bad language and a lack of professionalism and tact also tend to be more rampant in blogdom.

Having spent time in the professional writing world, I find this play between the more informal world of blogdom and the formal one of the professional media pretty interesting stuff. I’m looking forward to hearing Matt’s response as to why professional reviewers wait until the film’s release to post their reviews—and I’d love to hear more of his thoughts on this interplay between blogdom and the professional media. Yours, too, if you are so inclined.

(Image: by inf at flickr; some rights reserved)