Media & Communication Department

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Nicole Rhoads

The Emergence of Blogs in the Early 21st Century:

A Fix for the Failing Watchdog Role?

The press plays several vital roles in any democracy. These roles include agenda setter, public informer, mobilizer of citizens, and creator of a marketplace of ideas. In American democracy, the most idealized role of the press is its watchdog function over government. The watchdog press ensures the accountability of government as an institution, as well as governmental officials. Unfortunately, the press is not living up to the watchdog ideal. The investigative reporting that is often required of watchdog journalists is expensive and time-consuming. Therefore, editors tend to constrain their reporters to familiar "cookie cutter" narratives. Further complicating the current situation are Americans' tastes for the sensational. What has resulted is a mainstream media establishment that is focused on earning profits for its stockholders, rather than fulfilling its vital watchdog role in America's democracy. Fortunately, in this technology-laden twenty-first century, there is a new hope for restoring the watchdog role: the blogosphere. More and more, bloggers are acting as a "watcher of the watchdog," and scrutinizing the mainstream media. In so doing, they are ensuring that traditional reporters do their job, and properly cover governmental activity. In addition, many bloggers are conducting their own original reporting, which is often more detailed and well-researched than traditional news. This thesis examines the following proposition: considering mainstream media's failure to fully and accurately cover governmental activities, are blogs helping to restore the watchdog role, either by performing watchdog-type activities themselves, or by holding the mainstream media accountable?