something that bothers me about blogging…

the perception that bloggers are “journalists.”

and i don’t mean that people are suscribing to the inductive fallacy that because there are journalists who are bloggers, all bloggers are journalists. i don’t think anyone does that.

what i’m referring to is the trend toward “citizen journalism” and the “new” media. while i don’t think that news is the sole province of organized media, i have issues with ascribing the name “journalism” to what we bloggers do (even though it is technically correct) – especially when it’s used by the established media.

what most people think of when they hear the term “journalism” in any context is modern professional news journalism, which is usually understood to adhere to specific standards. but bloggers don’t have to adhere to any standards in the pursuit or recounting of What, When, Where, How, and Why. objectivity, fact-checking, proper research and sourcing – none of these are required for blogging.*

while it’s very true that the established centers of news media have issues with these concepts, they’re still far ahead of the blogging community. for example, bloggers by their nature are emphatically not objective. they blog about things they care about or are interested in, as opposed to a reporter who is often assigned to a story. that’s not to say the professional reporter doesn’t care about their subject – many of them do – but hopefully they care more about getting the facts right so the reader can make an informed choice.

bloggers as a whole are editorial in nature; even when they don’t lie, they will selectively shade the truth for their own motives. this isn’t always conscious – i’d guess it usually isn’t, in fact – but the lack of formal training makes it very common.

i’m not saying blogging is bad, however. far from it. if nothing else, it’s competition for “big media” – and competition is a good thing. it’s also a source of news and information almost totally free of governmental interference, a definite positive in today’s world wherever the readers may live.

but i wonder when blogs like mine get linked by the established media. i blog for my own mental health and out of a sense of whimsy, more or less. i make no attempt to be objective, though i try to fact-check and draw on reputable sources of information. but i’ve been linked to by respected media outlets like the Wall Street Journal and the Mumbai Mirror, as well as been listed as a “news source” on far less reputable company web sites.

while i don’t mind these links (in point of fact, i’m a bit flattered), i hope readers clicking through to my blog – or any other blog – remain skeptical of whatever they read. no-one is perfect, but a large organization with built in checks is far more likely to be consistently accurate than some guy ensconced in a computer chair somewhere…

quote of the day:

“There is much to be said in favour of modern journalism. By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, it keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community.” – Oscar Wilde

* Note – “New Journalism” drives me buggy for the same reasons, for what it’s worth. i’m just a big fan of objectivity in anybody trying to sell me news or information.

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3 Responses to “something that bothers me about blogging…”

  1. jaz Says:

    Aye. The recent P&C / pajama posters row had me thinking similar thoughts.

    I wonder how many people outside of the field really know how much research, interview prepping, interviewing, writing, re-interviewing, revising, and fact-checking goes into a typical magazine or newspaper article.

  2. Lowcountry Blogs » Blog Archive » A Bit on Blogging Says:

    […] JJ comments on citizen journalism and new media: while it’s very true that the established centers of news media have issues with these concepts, they’re still far ahead of the blogging community. for example, bloggers by their nature are emphatically not objective. they blog about things they care about or are interested in, as opposed to a reporter who is often assigned to a story. that’s not to say the professional reporter doesn’t care about their subject – many of them do – but hopefully they care more about getting the facts right so the reader can make an informed choice. […]

  3. Patrick Says:

    I couldn’t agree more.

    I work in the media, and I’m often quite amused by those who will criticize the media for being “biased” or “unfair” in one post, then write fact errors, sweeping generalizations and straw men arguments about some event in the next post.

    I think most people EXPECT that the traditional media is SUPPOSED to be unbiased, and blogs to reflect their writer’s biases. But there are cases in which both fail to live up to those expectations.

    Somewhere in a Charleston-area blog, someone made a comment that sums it up quite well; to paraphrase: “Citizen journalists can be ‘real’ journalists, but only when they practice JOURNALISM.”

    Having a blog doesn’t make anyone a journalist any more than having a medicine cabinet makes someone a pharmacist.

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