Charter Member of the Sub-Media

May 29, 2004

Journalism vs. Blogging « Stuff Important to Me »

Zombyboy asked an excellent question in this post, opining that despite all the self-congratulatory back-patting, "blogging" doesn't rise to a level that can be considered "journalism". The discussion got going pretty good, and some excellent points were made.

Something else came to me recently, but I don't want to post it there because it's been so long, no one would have seen it but Zombyboy.

So here goes:

I think part of the problem is question itself. Zombyboy looks at his blog and sees little that he could consider objective journalism. I assume that if he looked at mine, he'd see none.

And yet, I think that what Bill at INDC does with his photoblogging is journalism of a very high caliber. Andy at World Wide Rant made an excellent journalistic scoop when he discovered that Israel wasn't included in a map of the Middle East (can't remember the context, someone help me out here!)

So some people are doing good journalism, at least part-time.

But Bill of INDC is only one person. World Wide Rant has how many people? 2? 3? The staff of even a small-town weekly paper usually outnumbers that.

My point?
Taken as a whole, the blogosphere is journalism. We seek out stuff, we report, we opine, we review, we correct...but the special thing about it is that it is the reader who becomes the editor. The reader, often a blogger himself, must make the decision as to what is credible, when more research is necessary for complete understanding, etc. Perhaps no individual blogger can be considered to be a true journalist, but as a whole, we are.

Think of a newspaper. If all you had were the classifieds, would that be journalism? Or the gossip that journalism by itself? The tech review that journalism? How about the Religion section? The comics? The Op-Eds? The Obituaries?

It's not all news, though, is it? Yet taken as a whole, it is accepted as journalism, and the person writing a human interest story that appears right above the horoscope is considered to be every bit the journalist as the person whose byline appears on the front page.

If the blogosphere is taken as a newspaper, we've got the largest dang op-ed section ever...but Zombyboy has done tech reviews. Instapundit acts as an index (among other functions). You can get law opinions and political watchdog stuff at The Volokh Conspiracy and Ipse Dixit (just to name two, although more do that than can be counted).

Look at my blogroll: You get Military, Sports (at Sportsblog), Classified Ads (at gunbroker), Op-Ed to include links to liberal bloggers, News, Humor (at Homestar Runner), Poll results (at Rasumssen Reports). If you stop by 2-3 of each type of blogger each day (although it might take some time to determine which worked best for you), you could not fail to be fully informed of all the world's events and what people think about it.

That's journalism. Even if only in the aggregate.

Posted by Nathan at 11:45 AM | Comments (4)
» resurrectionsong links with: Because I Don't Want You to Miss It...

The problem isn't the question, it's the definition. Depends on who's defining "journalism."

What most journalists will look at to define blogging as journalism is "reporting," like what is done by INDC Bill and the like. When they see a paucity of "reporting," they conclude that it isn't "journalism."

But I would argue that one of the problems with "journalism" as an industry today is that it has strayed too far from "reporting," into the op-ed and gossip column type stuff, with a healthy smattering of window-dressing.

So, the mainstream media suffers a credibility problem in part because they have become too much about analysis, and too little about reporting the facts - both good and bad.

Blogging, ironically, suffers a credibility problem among journalists because it has always been so much analysis and "what I did today" writing, and too little about reporting the facts - good and bad.

Posted by: bryan at May 29, 2004 04:54 PM

The fact that journalists are even talking about bloggers is a great thing. I like the "reader as editor" motif. With blogs, you know what you get: personal journaling, diaries, partisan bickering and opinions, and maybe a little news. But that's what blogs are for, anything you want them to be. We are not journalists. We are regular people commenting about journalists. That serves a noble purpose in itself.

Posted by: La Shawn Barber at May 29, 2004 04:58 PM

Hello everyone... I was a paid journalist for 21 years... Blogging is not journalism until the following occur:

1. All publishers, editors and reporters must indentify themselves and allow readers to contact them the way print, radio and TV news organzations do.

2. All blog content must be segregated into sections, "Hard News," "Commentary" and "OpEd" so readers no what they're getting right away.

3. When hard news is reported all sources must be clearly attributed. If you use an annonymous source for a piece you must get independant comfirmation before release the report. Reporters and Editors should discuss in advance who the annonymous sources are and determine credibility. Reporters and editors must be willing to face jail rather than reveal any annonymous or confidential source once a story is published.

This is journalism 101... There's no way around it.

Posted by: Mike Heid at May 30, 2004 05:51 AM

Mike, I'd feel better about your definition if it weren't routinely violated by most (if not all) of the big newspapers. The routine assumption that "because we are journalists, we must automatically be doing the right thing) is how Jayson Blair, et al, were able to go so long making up crap...
Furthermore, every news media source I've seen routinely editorializes facts, so there goes your insistence that it must be rigidly classified into categories. Morever, I don't see Dan Rather giving his sources in his broadcasts...the watcher merely assumes it's all good. That's how CNN can get away with not telling the truth about Saddam to maintain their access.

Finally, your definition is rather circular: when television news reporting was in its infancy, journalism was probably defined in terms of newspaper journalism, and thus television journalism was excluded. Would you still insist that shows like "20/20" or "60 Minutes" are not journalism? Of course not!

What I'm driving at is that while the medium is not always the message, the unique attributes and characteristics of a new medium will inevitably give rise to new forms of old establishments. Sometimes, if the old definition excludes the new, you have to come up with a new definition. I think "blogging as journalism" is still in its infancy, as well. So, to me, a better definition of journalism would be: "A credible source of news reporting that gives people a better understanding of events they are not present to witness/experience." By that definition, blogging is clearly the wave of the future. It probably won't ever fully replace traditional news media, but there are aspects to blogging that are absolutely superior to traditional media for that...I think that will become clearer over time.

But then again, maybe not; I might be full of optimistic crap.

Posted by: Nathan at May 30, 2004 06:50 AM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?