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Blogging and journalism: Reinvention or destruction? August 25, 2008

Posted by Raul in blogosphere, random thoughts.
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I had this post as a draft, and recent online discussions (thanks Maura, Jordan, John Bollwitt and Greg!) have opened an opportunity for me to resurrect it. Maura tweeted that Bill Good asked whether blogging was ruining journalism. One of the central points that worries me whenever this discussion occurs (and it often occurs in MSM) is that bloggers are not recognized as a new form of media, and as this quotation by Cynthia Webb from The Washington Post indicates (my emphasis)

Blogs and bloggers of all stripes, whether or not they like this fact, have become part of the journalistic discourse. That hasn’t stopped many bloggers from contending that they are not practicing pure journalism and therefore are not governed by the same ethics. This is a slippery-slope argument. Many bloggers say they want to be accepted by the mainstream media as another facet of public discourse, but this seems to be a hard goal to achieve if plagiarism, a cardinal sin in the world of journalism, is brushed off as a minor offense (or no offense at all). Just because blogs are a “free medium” doesn’t mean that rules of playing fair need not apply.[Cynthia L. Webb, Filter, The Washington Post, Apr 9, 2003]

The main point of this quotation relates to how some bloggers may not attribute and source, but this is only one of the points – the ethics of sourcing and attribution. There are MANY other points where journalism and blogging overlap, and they still seem to be getting into a fight. The point is, in my view, that blogging has indeed become another way of reaching an audience, and thus, there is a place for it in the journalistic discourse. No need to fight, just understand each other.

The relationship between mainstream media (MSM) and blogging seems to almost always be rocky, no matter what. But is it really reinventing journalism, destroying journalism, or can we create a symbiosis where both can co-exist? I’d be curious to hear your opinion.

[SIDE BAR – A very good post by Rebecca picked up on these points last year, and it’s still very timely/current]

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Comments»

1. Greg - August 25, 2008

My alternate tweet response could have been “lazy and/or corrupt journalists are ruining journalism”

2. John Bollwitt - August 25, 2008

What journalists don’t like are uneducated, meaning those who have not studied journalism in a scholastic or professional realm, being able to create content that directly competes with their method of producing journalism, thus giving rise to a competitive news source.

Additionally, it’s the way that the content is generated that is more difficult for traditional journalism to understand. Blogs, or even websites that are built on the same technology that bloggers use, cuts the cord with the way journalists often produce their content. Soft deadlines, as many pictures as you want, as quickly as you want, embedding video, little or no restriction to length of the “article”, and it remains searchable for as long as the author sees fit.

Like I replied to Maura about the comment she made, journalists are trying to ruin blogging as being a unrespectable source of getting any of your information. I have friends who work for large newspapers and even studied journalism for a short time in college, so there is some understanding of how the two realms collide.

One thing is for certain in that not all journalists are alike, no matter how formal their training is or isn’t. Slant, spin, perspective, and deadlines can make their reporting just as infallible as some make blogging out to be. I know for a fact that with all the press that miss604.com has gotten in the past six months, trained journalists get things wrong all the time, and those errors get reported and put on the record, turning them into (incorrect) facts.

3. ddrucker - August 25, 2008

“Slant, spin, perspective, and deadlines can make their reporting just as infallible as some make blogging out to be.”

You mean fallible, right?
-David

4. John Bollwitt - August 25, 2008

@ddrucker – You’re right.

5. Robert Ballantyne - August 25, 2008

There is a fundamental difference between the profession of journalism and the work of a blogger.

A journalist is trained and is expected to be part of the media. When performing the work journalism, the writer (or broadcaster, or whatever) is in the role of media. This person collects material that s/he thinks might be of interest, and then processes this for presentation in the medium that is to be used (broadsheet, podcast, or whatever).

The point here is that the journalist does not (or should not) make the news. The job is one of reporting or interpreting (or both).

The integrity of the work of the journalist usually is tied to the quality of the medium being used, or to the personal name of the journalist. Some rags seldom have bylines (e.g. the Economist) so the reader expects that the opinions and points-of-view to belong to the editorial policy of the source. Some authors are syndicated and her/his byline is what sells the story.

A blogger may choose to act like a journalist and synthesize aspects of the world and report or interpret. However, in most cases, the blogger is known as an individual. This person may be using blogging software as a medium, but the job is one human expressing himself or herself to those who choose to read or watch the contents of the blog.

In many cases, the blogger is providing new news. When Steve Jobs writes at the site of apple.com, no one is interpreting his words for me; I am learning the opinion of the most influential person in the world DRM.

So, the medium might be Blogger, or WordPress, or Justin.tv, but the integrity, authority, and quality of the content depend entirely on the reputation of the individual. And that person may be the source of the idea, concept, or news. Except for the impersonal Internet and the software, there is no human medium between the newsmaker and the recipient of the message.

For a while I was a columnist. I loved doing that. But I was aware that before my words could be seen by my readers, I had to adhere to editorial policy and then pass through a number of editorial processes — each of which could change what I wrote without my approval. Frankly, what caused the most words to be cut from my articles was the paper wanting the space for another ad on that page.

Rather than seeing the blogger as a junior-journalist, I view the direct connection between the blogger and the reader as a huge advance in public communication. The obfuscating veil that is ‘the media’ has been removed. Now the reader can choose to decide who will gather information, who will digest and interpret it, and in many cases can read (or watch and hear) the actual source. If this makes the ‘professional journalist’ obsolete, good.

There is, then, the issue of integrity. I think the public has come to expect that print and electronic media are in the business of selling eyeballs to advertisers. The sad fact is that there is little or no trust most forms of current media. The newspapers and the broadcasters have worked very hard to earn our low esteem and deserve the public’s lack of respect.

My hope is that some individual bloggers will take enough personal care about the integrity of their work (and their name) that they will both earn and deserve the trust of those who follow them.

Already my aggregator has the feeds of several sources that I trust.

I believe in the power of good ideas; but ideas need the means to be communicated. I think the Internet is providing the best means the world has seen. The people who have ideas and points-of-view worth reading, and the integrity to earn our trust, are emerging.

6. Tyler Ingram - August 26, 2008

I’m a blogger and never would consider calling myself a journalist.

Sure from time to time I report on events around my city (such as a Truck Case in my neighbourhood city, when the BC Place stadium’s roof collapsed) and use various material that I find via news, radio, word of mouth. When i do this i do find contradicting stories from the various new sources so how reliable is this?

I personally like doing product reviews which majority of my visitors seem to enjoy. I have also had many people comment on how they like the way I write things, that I write from a personal level than trying to appease my readers. *shrug*

7. Mark Latham - August 26, 2008

I’m an economist writing a paper on why the mainstream media don’t serve the needs of a democracy adequately, and how we can encourage bloggers to fill this gap – download “How to Create Public Interest Media in Your Democratic Community” at http://votermedia.org/publications.

Summary of the paper:

“Our existing media, both private sector and public sector, have inadequate economic incentives for serving the public interest in our democracies. As a result, we suffer from political corruption and inefficient public policy. To remedy this, we can create a new hybrid media sector, where organizations compete for public funds allocated by voters. This would provide the financial support for media to build their reputations for critiquing politicians and policies, while remaining loyal to voters’ interests. With more trustworthy information and insight, citizens will be able to use their voting power more effectively.
The blogosphere’s recent growth and energy provide an ideal engine for launching this proposal. Small democracies such as municipalities and student unions can sponsor political blog competitions, where the funding of blogs changes in response to on-line voting continuously through time. The top five or more contestants win periodic cash awards, e.g. weekly or monthly.
Tests of this system have begun in Vancouver Canada. Below I describe the economic rationale for this reform, system designs tested so far, the results achieved, and strategies for the next stage of the voter funded media (VFM) movement. We plan to spread it to larger democracies and corporations, to make elected leaders (politicians, boards of directors) more accountable to voters and the public interest. This should help solve the daunting range of global problems that humanity now faces.”

That’s why I’m now sponsoring the Vancouver Election Blog Contest (which this blog just entered) at http://votermedia.org/van.

8. What’s Up Wednesdays: Raw Chicken on Purpose || Beyond the Rhetoric || - August 27, 2008

[…] who you may also know simply as Raul, asserts that all bloggers have become a part of the journalistic discourse. There are definite overlaps between blogging and traditional journalism, so where do you draw the […]

9. Is blogging killing journalism? | john bollwitt blog - August 28, 2008

[…] Still, there are those days when it gets me thinking, and it is more to the fact when journalists are the ones who are raising a stink over the legitimacy of this new medium. Such is the case that you can get more details on from a post that Raul made a few days ago. […]


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