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Blogs As Journalism – CIOS 246

May 1, 2008

Are blogs journalism? For the most part no, but sometimes yes. From what I have read of various blogs that put on the journalistic air, they tend to link to other blogs/stories, and offer commentary on them. That is not journalism. That is commentary with links. So am I doing a journalistic blog? No, I am not, but I am offering links to someone who did write a journalistic story and offering my own commentary which is nothing but my own.

There are blogs that do have journalistic leanings or are in fact true journalism. If the blog believes in journalistic practices (research, finding/confirming/interviewing sources, writing coherent sentences with proper syntax, tone down editorializing, run it by others before it is posted and is fact checked and checked again), then any blog can be what is called a journalistic endeavorer. I don’t think however that every single post on a blog ever falls in that category though: it is much too easy to place a quick post about how X or Y is occurring (changes to web page, big sale on socks, new seafood available at local restaurant) and you will be preoccupied with that. Time magazine doesn’t do that. Neither does the New Yorker. Nor does a local newspaper (if it is decent) or a large online news organization. The familiarity and voice in a blog is what interests people. It is, to use an idea put forth from our readings, a conversation, and many people enjoy conversations. Journalism is storytelling and informing to a mass audience. That is why some people are confused so much and believe blogs to be the ‘new journalism’. That level of engagement and interactivity provided by blogs -that has rarely been present in a standard, steady and informative journalistic news story – is exciting and what we, as consumers, want. An intimate, interactive give-and-take conversation with our individual views not only accepted as valid but then disseminated to everyone.

Taking the example of a blogger and whether their sources should be protected more or less than a professional journalist, I think it comes back to the nature of the blog. If the blog is more of a diary and suddenly there is this headline on a political scandal, I would really be suspect. That’s akin to reading about how nuclear reactors affect marshland in Cosmopolitan… it seems way out of their scope. However, if journalistic practices are followed, and it can be proved that this individual has followed them (since they have no large news organization backing them, they need some way to prove that they are in fact a legitimate source), then they could go to jail just like all of the other editors who refuse to give up their sources.

Looking at the idea of equality between a blogger and a journalist regarding press credentials, a blogger who is denied press credentials because they are not a journalist is wrong. A blogger who is denied press credentials because they have no way as establishing themselves as an expert in a given field for the press event is right. In the technology and gaming world, for the longest time, if you were interested in attending industry only events, all you had to do was fake a website with a few articles and then you were granted press credentials. That is a manipulation of the system and I am certain there are individuals who see blogging as their easy access entry into a given field.

I believe it all comes down to how the blog is presented. If I saw my blog, which has entries from less than 6 months ago, and I am claiming press credentials and I have nothing on my site except links to other news stories with a paragraph or two of commentary, I would expect to be turned down. I have no massive following, I have no established roots, nor do I have any kind of significant tie to a larger journalistic entity or established web presence (which should not be necessary, but when establishing credibility can always help). That same blog, with 3 years of entries, ties to larger web organizations, many comments/traffic and actual content (ie. news stories, interviews, reviews) that is not simply regurgitated from elsewhere, I would expect to be approved for press credentials. There is also a good chance that my blog has more readers than a given newspaper’s website and as a PR person for that event, I would want my product/idea placed in front of as many eyeballs as possible; because that would reach the maximum number of people which would then result in exposure that could end up as excellent press.

Granted, a journalist who just began work at NPR could simply waltz in and get press credentials by just saying NPR and be woefully under qualified to be there, but NPR is established. It is a news outlet. By working at NPR as a journalist, you should be following the rules of journalism as learned in school or on the job. Myawesomeblogaboutcrap.com is not established. It is rarely about news. I just post what I want. I am not a journalist. I know there are many respectable blogs out there, and often it is a case by case basis to determine if they should be allowed access to press credentials, but there are even more not so respectable blogs than journalistic ones. If bloggers want to be taken seriously as journalists, then they need to have some kind of structure (like journalists) and rules (also like journalists) that are followed in order to gain respect as a press outlet.

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One comment

  1. There’s definitely an important distinction between whether something or someone is journalism or a journalist for the sake of legal arguments and such and whether or not the source is valid, authoritative, reliable, etc. I’m a radical born an era too late– I think the best thing about the “unreliability” of blogs is how much attention it has helped to bring to bear in understanding the “unreliability” of traditional media. The most important lessons are about being engaged, informed consumers of media and knowing how to apply pressure in the right places…

    I generally agree with most of what you say here!



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