This year Halloween found me in Washington Square, enjoying the sight of NYU kids all dressed up and heading off to parties. I never understood Halloween, and stopped getting into costumes as soon as it was socially acceptable to do so. Perhaps I was scarred by all the ominous warnings about razor blades in my tootsie rolls; nothing kills your mood like unwrapping every piece of candy before you can eat the first piece. In any case, I've accepted the fact that I don't get Halloween. With that detachment comes happiness at how excited other people become every year.
I was in the neighborhood to attend a panel discussion hosted by the NYU Department of Journalism about Blogs and the Future of News. The most important acknowledgment of the evening was that blogs are here to stay. Perhaps the quotidian blogs, such as my own, will be a passing blip. But people have enough passion about politics, and enough desire to circumvent the mainstream media, to keep policy blogs in operation for a long time to come.
There was much talk about the "rebirth of the free press" and "citizen democracy." There's no doubt that big media is a corporate behemoth, but I don't think that blogs are the antidote that will finally allow every American to speak their mind. Indeed, there was also discussion of using your intelligence to point the way to the best blogs, and a recognition that most of what's online is garbage. As I realized later, the discussion was a contradictory blend of elitism and populism.
With that said, the excitement of the bloggers on the panel was infectious. Traditional media will have to come to terms with them, rather than retreating into a defensive crouch. Even if we are not on the cusp of a renaissance in citizenship, we are certainly witnessing a profound change in how people interact with the media.
Of course, the same is true of how people utilize libraries. The Internet has changed everything, and we still have only a dim idea of what this means.