Surveys about the internet and particularly blog usage are always of interest and this recent one from the Scripps Survey Research Center of Ohio University grabbed my attention, reporting that “just” three percent of Americans 65 and older read blogs at least once a week.
Three percent of the 65-plus population (about 1.08 million people) can hardly be characterized as “just.” Considering that unlike young Americans, elders who use computers learned how only in midlife, many later than that and others not at all yet, the number is remarkably large. But the wording in the report suggests that few elders read blogs and therefore either elders aren’t keeping up with technology or blogs are not as important as you’ve heard in the media.
In this case, it is the latter drum the writers are beating – to cast a suspicious light on all those nutty people who read or write blogs regardless of age.
Another section of the story discusses a survey question about how many days a week readers get their news from blogs. Since anyone familiar with blogs knows they are rarely if ever sources of hard news, 88 percent sanely answered “never,” but the writers of the story had a different spin to put on that answer as the full quotation shows:
“The survey asked: ‘How many days each week do you get news from a blog on the Internet?’ Eighty-eight percent of respondents said they never use blogs to get news, 7 percent said they read blogs four days a week or less and 5 percent said they read them five days a week or more.
"’I'm not sure that rate of usage is set in stone. For now, the significance of blogging is that it influences the influencers,’ said David Kline, co-author of Blog! How the Newest Media Revolution is Changing Politics, Business and Culture.”
So now it is obvious that the story and, because it is written by two people within the organization which conducted the survey, perhaps the survey itself, is biased. It is impossible to know, in the second sentence of the first paragraph, if those other two numbers refer to readers looking for news or something else. And the second paragraph reinforces the first idea that interest in blogs isn't as widespread as you’ve heard; it’s just those elite media types who take them seriously.
It then becomes evident that the goal of the story (if not the survey) is to tag all bloggers as members of the tinfoil hat fringe. Here is the coup de grace:
“The poll also found that people who use blogs are significantly more likely to believe in anti-government conspiracy theories. Nearly half of those who read blogs say they suspect the federal government may have been involved in the assassination of President John Kennedy or the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
"’This kind of conspiracy-mongering has existed long before the Internet," Kline said. "But, let's face it, bloggers are skilled amateurs who have a greater disposition to believe in conspiracies.’"
So, with apologies to Willie Nelson, don’t let your children (or elders) grow up to be bloggers. You wouldn’t want them to become part of the crackpot element that questions the government, or surveys or how news stories are slanted.