Michele Neylon asks ‘Are blogs killing journalism?‘ He argues that there are topics that are thoroughly discussed online before making their way into the mainstream media, and as media organisations begin to incorporate blogs, etc into their online strategy, the line between journalists and bloggers will begin to become blurred.

My opinion is that blogger are not journalists, they are publishers. The fact that you can pick up a pen and paper doesn’t make you a writer, therefore just because you have a blog doesn’t make you a journalist. Before I jump into the deep end though, I would agree that some bloggers could be deemed journalists.

The blog is our generation’s equivalent of the Guttenburg Press. It gives the common man (provided he has access to a computer) access to a potential audience of billions. How he uses that platform is entirely up to him. He could become the next Shakespeare, but the far more likely option is that he will become the next charlatan on a street corner.

Journalists on the other hand have editors and standards to adhere to (for the most part :D ) Even Wikipedia, the online collaborative dictionary/encylopedia, defines journalism as “a discipline of collecting, verifying, analyzing and presenting information gathered regarding current events, including trends, issues and people.” Blogging offers people and out to collect and present information regarding current events, trends, issues and people, but it crucially lacks the process of verifying and analyzing that information.

Journalists, for the most part, have to adhere to certain rules before reporting on a subject. While blogs offered instant coverage of events like the London Bombings or Hurricane Katrina, the mainstream media offered an unbiased account of both events. Recent changes in the BBC’s editorial guidelines just go to show that just because you were the first person to report on a story, doesn’t necessarily mean that you offered the best coverage of the story.

Antony Mayfield points me in the way of a recent post by Guy Kawasaki who illustrates bloggers’ impact on journalism nicely:

Blogging has flipped traditional PR on its head. It used to be that ink begat buzz….Nowadays buzz begets ink. Journalists no longer anticipate or create buzz–rather, they react to it: “Everyone is buzzing about FaceBook. There must be something to this, so I had better write a story about it.” This role reversal has fried people’s mind

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20 Responses to “Bloggers aren’t journalists, they’re publishers”  

  1. 1 Bernie Goldbach

    I’ve always considered effective bloggers to be descendants of the pamphleteers.

  2. 2 Sinéad

    What about journalists who are bloggers? :)

  3. 3 peteb

    I’ve said it before.. and no doubt will again.. as Sinéad suggests, the two are not mutually exclusive, Piaras.

    Bernie’s got a point, too in regard to the pamphleteers.. but the final reckoning for me is not which category you try to fit a particular blogger into, it’s about whether they write informatively, inflamatory, accurately, or even well.. and which elements you prefer.

    As for, “it [blogging] crucially lacks the process of verifying and analyzing that information.”

    Actually no. Analyzing information can be part of the blogging process.. and any blogger worth reading for any length of time will try to ensure they only use accurate information as a basis for their posts.. it comes down to being reliable, if you’re not, then the readers will eventually go elsewhere.

    The information and analysis, as presented, is out in public and open to instant contradiction, verification, debate and discussion by and with their readers.. and other bloggers.. rather than filtered by an editor accountable to a media owner.. that’s part of the intrinsic nature, and the appeal, of blogging.

    It’s a different ball-game from the editorial based system that your definition of journalism seems to rely on, but it doesn’t have to be in conflict with it :)

  4. 4 Michele

    Piaras – I’d have to disagree with you. While some bloggers may merely publish a lot of the better ones will analyse and bring a greater depth of knowledge and accuracy to their subject than a lot of mainstream journalists. In the technology and ebusiness arenas, for example, it is all too easy to find examples of journalists simply regurgitating PR without actually examining it or even getting a second opinion.
    Having said that I can see that we do concur on some points. I wouldn’t consider a lot of the blogs or bloggers to be anything close to journalism, but at the same time I wouldn’t hold a lot of the journalists in as high a regard as they might like to be seen.
    While the journalists should be following standards it is all too often the case that they don’t.
    Michele

  5. 5 Piaras

    Pete – I’d say 99% of bloggers don’t take the time to analyze or verify their posts. The urge to get the ‘exclusive’ is far greater than to report on something. I do agree that how the information they publish is then opened up to feedback, debate and discussion is a fascinating aspect of blogging and it will be interesting to see how journalists incorporate social media

    Michele – I think that you’ve got too much of a focus on tech journalism, rather than journalism as a whole. Most journalists will take the time to shift through PR rather than just reprinting it.

  6. 6 peteb

    Piaras

    The problem I have with the discussion about whether or not bloggers are journalists is that it’s too ill-defined, both in regard to journalists and bloggers.

    There are, according to Technorati, around 24 million blogs at this point in time.. the writing involved is varied – in subject, content and quality. From analysis to polemicists and pamphleteers, to fiction, to fantasy, to what some describe as human aggregators of news, to personal diaries… of course 99% don’t take the time to analyse anything.

    I can only speak for myself when it comes to blogging, I’d be a fool to do otherwise, I try to select reliable sources of information, fact-check it as much as possible against other outlets or archived news and then place that information into the context of other events. Ocassionally I’ll add more analysis, but I prefer to draw attention to links in other stories and other information that’s already out there and allow the reader to make the connection.. that’s just the way I do it. Then I open what I’ve written to the criticism of others.

    Some journalists, in contrast, and even with editorial oversight, prefer to simply report, as fact, what their, often anonymous, sources tell them.

    The point is they’re different beasts.

    There’s too wide and varied a field, in both sections of the media, to directly compare in the manner you’re attempting, IMHO.

    Btw.. I happen to agree that rushing to post on a breaking story can lead to problems.. but on a blog that post can be continually updated, corrected and refined.. unlike certain print journalists for example.

  7. 7 Piaras

    True again pete about posts being continually updated.

    I don’t think that we compare like with like though. Bloggers get irate when they are tared and feathered with the same brush. Obviously though we’re not all raving mad lunatics.

    The same goes for journalists though. The death of mainstream media isn’t coming anytime soon and there’s a lot of journalists out there doing a good job.

  8. 8 Chris G

    Bloggers are more like editorialists or columnists. Normally a blog has an opinion or two injected into the content, whereas I believe the traditional role of a journalist is somebody who reports the facts on something, with far less opinion trying to remain neutral. A journalist is also somebody normally with good moral standards that could be trusted to tell the truth and not to be biased in their text.

    Take John Dvorak of PCMAG – he’s a well-conneted, witty, well-spoken, fairly intelligent blogger that gets paid well to write a weekly column. He’s been blogging years before it was called blogging. My question is what’s the future of paid journalism? What’s the future of PCMAG?

  9. 9 kenji mori

    I am a marketer but I am not a journalist. I don’t want to be a journalist or don’t want to be considered as one. But seems the recent discussion about [disclosure] suggest that I have no choice. That is, when you blog (publish) things, to me it seems that they are suggesting that I’d need to have some degree of journalistic sense, to disclose things when blogging. Right?

  10. 10 Piaras

    You should have a sense of disclosure, but it’s fairly obvious that a lot of bloggers don’t. I always try to be upfront when refering to a client or personal circumstances, but I’ve witnessed plenty ‘high profile’ bloggers that don’t display much integrity.

  11. 11 Josh, Graphic Designer, Berkeley CA

    Certainly we can discuss the impact blogging has on traditional media. But it’s a bit premature to define a blogger in anything but general terms. A blogger is someone who engages in an instant public medium, that’s it.

    Maybe we can discuss the journalistic integrity of particular A-List bloggers but I doub’t your average blogger is trying to be journalist or publisher. I think what’s really going on is that when some doofus with strong opinions gets a million hits a day and gets profiled in Wired magazine or Red Herring, the journalists start crapping there pants and start ranting, ironically, on there blogs.

    Your average blogger starts a blog out of curiosity or pressure. What’s facitanating is what happens when you give a blogger an audience. Everything changes. First a few timid posts, then a few comments, then a bunch of posts…. Then appologies for not posting!? Ah, the birth of a blogger. Then the pressure builds and here come the google ads and some donnation buttons … bloggers learn as they go and the act of blogging changes the blogger. Blogging isn’t journalism – its anarchy.

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  14. 14 anonymous

    I’ll take a “blogger” over a “journalist” everytime.

    “Bloggers” can be anyone. They can be the source on which the journalist focuses, and almost always gets wrong.

    Journalists feel threatened. And I hope they can find other ways to sell their skills. Massive numbers of people are getting comfortable with the internetwork of computers (=”internet”). In time everyone will learn to deal with it. Just like people got used to the printing press, telephone, radio, TV, etc.

    This is one of the most nonsense posts I’ve ever seen. The author himself is by definition a “blogger”. Log some text on a computer connected to the web so others can read it = “web logging” = “blogging”.

    Stop being so fearful and resistant. If you are such a skilled writer, then have at it. You are free to write as you wish with no editor interference or other pressures. Let’s see what you got. Besides fear.

    Give us a few reasons we should read what journalists write versus reading works by people dedicated to a subject area that must be supported by data, subjected to statistical analysis and peer review? Why shoud we read mass media versus academic journals?

    I have empathy for journalists, but I feel no sympathy for them.

  15. 15 Daniel Geske

    Interesting thoughts, thanks for sharing this.

    The name of the inventor of mechanical movable type printing is Johannes Gutenberg. (not Guttenburg, though that’s how you might pronounce it)

    Daniel

  16. 16 Piaras

    D’oh, thanks for spotting the typo

  1. 1 Blog Run » Blog Archive » Fire the Client, Bloggers are Publishers, Not Journalists and REAL Public Relations
  2. 2 Blog Run » Blog Archive » Fire the Client, Bloggers are Publishers, Not Journalists and REAL Public Relations
  3. 3 Matrix » I Have See The Future Of Real Estate Journalism, And It Is Good
  4. 4 Follow up to how many (Irish) bloggers does it take to change a light bulb? at Piaras Kelly PR - Irish Public Relations


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