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Could blogging simply be journalism without the organizational overhead that makes news worse? 3/4/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in Blogs, Journalism.

PBS’ MediaShift reports that mainstream outlets are suddenly having some trouble distinguishing bloggers from journalists — so, now accepts them both! After all, it isn’t quite so easy for these outlets to condemn blogs when they’ve got blogs, too. They were even willing to bestow an award on blogger Josh Marshall for helping them advance their center-left agenda — in this case taking down Attorney General Gonzales. Of course, “objectivity” precluded them from recognizing much greater accomplishments from bloggers advancing a center-right agenda, like Matt Drudge for Lewinsky and Little Green Footballs for Rathergate.

So, now that the hysteria has subsided, let’s re-ask the question — what really are the differences between blogging and journalism? Blogging allows personal style, journalism doesn’t. Blogging allows opinion, journalism doesn’t. Blogging gets news out immediately, journalism doesn’t. Blogging allows the writer to take risks, journalism doesn’t. Blogging allows rumors to be followed by updates, journalism doesn’t. Bloggers are independent of oversight by editors who slow down publication while removing the style, opinion, rumors, risk, and edge. Journalists aren’t. Oh, and there’s one more difference. Blogging is growing because news consumers prefer all of the above. Journalism isn’t.


1. hyokon - 3/5/08

There is essentially no difference at the core. It is like comparing a paper mail and an email. The reason why people in the 19th century carefully wrote a letter is because mailing was a very expensive and time-consuming thing. Now, we do not pay as much attention, and the quality and quantity of an email vary widely.

I think the journalism and the blog also serve the same purpose: news and perspective. The reason why journalism became what it is is because paper was scarce, printing was scarce, distribution was scarce and educated people who can write a good article were scarce. So we had to be careful in choosing the topic, writing, selecting the journalists, etc. We have abundance in all of those now. Once we have all those scarcity gone, we have no reason to have journalism as we know.

There is no such thing as true journalism, as some people seem to call it in contrast to blogging. Every business model (or an industry) is a product of the age. And journalism as a business model will lose share, though I don’t know how much, because it is losing the very reasons why it had to be that way.

2. Walter Abbott - 3/5/08

A valid observation by hyokon – There is no such thing as true journalism….

I submit there is only ‘information sharing.’

One small correction for Steve – Little Green Footballs did not break the Rathergate scandal. That high honor belongs to FreeRepublic.com.

See the narrative here which accurately describes what happened. That discussion thread is also still available on FR.


3. Fresh Air - 3/5/08

Blogging is only reporting insofar as it presents new information. Sometimes fact-checking MSM stories amounts to this, sometimes it doesn’t. It depends upon how much analytical horsepower and external information/data is brought to bear.

Opinion-wielders, manifestly, are not reporters. Buckhead, the man who busted the Dan Rather memos, was a commenter on a blog, but he did provide new information to the story. So he was kind of combination reporter and expert. There are shades of grey here.

What Pajamas is trying to do, unsuccessfully so far, is turn the Buckheads into reporters. Unfortunately, many of their “editors” are still doing thought pieces instead of actual reporting. Bob Owens is an exception to this. There are others, but not many…yet.

4. Steve Boriss - 3/5/08

Fresh Air, Not enough time to spell out my thoughts here, but I see the reporting function for news outlets pretty much going away. New information will come mostly from original sources, and news outlets will be editing/aggregating this raw info. Reporters have largely been repeaters of someone else’s news, and I believe the Internet will squeeze-out the middleman.

5. John Grey - 3/19/08

“Blogging is growing because news consumers prefer all of the above. Journalism isn’t.”

And yet our site (run by journalists) has had more than 200% growth in the past 12 months.

And all but three of the top 30 US newspaper websites made gains in traffic over last year.

Perhaps you should have checked your facts with a journalist :o)

“Reporters have largely been repeaters of someone else’s news”

Gosh, bloggers would never do that. No, wait …

6. Steve Boriss - 3/19/08

John Grey, Picking out selective facts is not a particularly good way to win an argument. “All but three of the top 30 US newspaper websites made gains in traffic over last year”? Surely you can do better than that.

7. matthew smith - 5/17/08

i agree for the most part, except that bloggers don’t have millions of dollars to ship cats overseas to investigate and photograph and videotape a fresh story. however, these days it seems a good amount of “journalists” don’t even do that, they just circle around and around with commentary segments from “experts”, creating this incestuous blackhole of “current events”, especially when we get to CNN and FOXnews, who are increasingly turning into 24-hour, disgustingly hypocritical gossip magazines (here’s a video that we’re saying is lewd and sexually charged! we’re outraged at it! now let’s show it in the background, over and over, for 5 minutes straight while we talk about it how immoral it is!) . honestly, i believe the purpose of television journalism these days is to deeply imbed doublethink into us.

and as far as your comment that journalism leaves no room for opinion….i guess i respectfully disagree. except strongly. very, very strongly. journalism holds up a sign that says “we’re telling you how it is” and then uses: the Implicative Question (How good of friends was Barack Obama with extremist Anti-American 60’s radical William Ayers?); the “some people are saying” to form conventional wisdom, and basically force us to think about issues a certain way. man at least with bloggers, i know i’m hearing it from a person who doesn’t claim to be stating simply facts.

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