I was welcomed as a new member of Washington, DC’s 100-year-old National Press Club (NPC) today. My credentials for membership? I’m a blogger.
The Internet has revolutionized information sharing and news reporting. Not only has it democratized the process, but it has harnessed the power of the common man and woman to bring a new depth and breadth of insight to the news. Just as medicine is becoming “personalized,” one could say that blogging is making journalism “personalized.”
Mainstream media outlets like the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal have recognized blogging as a legitimate platform for information sharing. Bloggers like me, KevinMD, Gene Ostrovsky, Dr. Rob Lamberts, and many others are openly recommended sources for further reading. In the span of 5 years, medical blogging has become a respected part of the new media landscape.
When I told my parents that I was becoming a member of the National Press Club, my dad asked if they were going to give me a press credentialling card for my fedora (hat). For him, the NPC clearly conjured up images of 1920s news reporters crowded into small, smoke filled rooms to interview foreign dignitaries.
There was a hint of truth to my dad’s vision - the NPC retains a relatively austere interior, with large flags and club seals prominently displayed in regal blue conference rooms. But beyond the C-SPAN aesthetic, the club is undergoing substantial modernization. The restrooms feature Dyson airblades, the old library’s bookshelves are being torn down to expose bay window views of DC, and the fourth floor studios are constructed with glass and clean-line architecture.
The NPC’s new member luncheon was hosted by two staff and an NPC member who joined the club in 1971. I was astonished to learn that my new membership entitled me to a free daily breakfast and unlimited access to: their librarian for my fact-checking needs, a gym with a full-time personal trainer, meeting rooms that I could book in advance for my convenience, and a Friday night taco bar. Who knew?
Near our table was a portrait of Will Rogers who, among other things, was a nationally syndicated columnist featured in over 4000 different newspapers. Our member-host pointed at the portrait and said, “Back in Will’s day – everyone wanted to know what he thought of current events, so they’d purchase their daily newspaper to find out.”
As I considered Will Rogers’ smiling face, it suddenly struck me that blogs offer today’s readers a filter through which to view current events. And thanks to the abundance of blogs, there is an ever expanding array of personal editorial. Finding a good blog is like finding a voice you can relate to – a living commentator on events. No longer is there one voice like Will Rogers who dominates the national consciousness.
But citizen journalism has its downside, as does Karaoke. Karaoke offers everyone a microphone, but not everyone is a talented singer. In the same way, blog quality varies considerably, and so now more than ever we must cling to the old news addage, “consider the source.” The danger of blogs is that readers may ascribe more authority to their authors than they deserve. When it comes to medicine – and your health is hanging in the balance - it’s important to get the facts straight. So I believe that professional medical bloggers should work extra hard to uphold the ideals of medicine, and respect patient privacy.
Just as the NPC is welcoming bloggers like me into their midst, I hope that new media gurus will welcome what the NPC has to offer them: a rich history of journalistic integrity. I think that a fusion of old and new media might actually produce a hybrid product that will bring us the best of both worlds – a broad array of trusted voices in online journalism.
With this blog I add my “voice of reason” to the choir and look forward to all that the NPC can teach me. At the very least, I’ll enjoy Friday night taco fests with my peers in Washington.This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at RevolutionHealth.com.