Is blogging killing journalism?

If I had a dime for every time I’ve heard someone snicker when I say something about blogging, then you know that I could quit my day job and live a nice, wealthy life. That’s why the argument of blogging versus journalism tends to fall into areas of white noise to me, mostly because I’ve been taught, by journalism professors, to not care anymore.

Still, there are those days when it gets me thinking, and it is more to the fact when journalists are the ones who are raising a stink over the legitimacy of this new medium. Such is the case that you can get more details on from a post that Raul made a few days ago.

It takes me back to the short time where I was once a journalism student. Wavering in and out of studies that would give me a better grasp on an educational background in broadcasting, I found myself surrounded by professors who saw print as the only worthwhile medium that one should dedicate themselves to in the realm of media.

Now, before I start to say anything negative, there is absolute truth in the need to develop a solid background in writing, and working in radio for as long as I have, I can assure you that there are folks who have missed this step in their career ladder in broadcasting. Point number one in your journey into TV or radio should be to learn how to write, and then you can focus on looking or sounding good doing it. Some improv acting wouldn’t hurt as well, but I digress.

While knee deep in my college radio days, there was never any precedence given to our little station in relation to the school of journalism. In fact, the head of the department was once quoted as saying “radio is a waste of time” and KRUI was “just a place for kids to play radio.” No matter how much we asked them to do more in terms of developing a relationship between our organization and the school of journalism, the heads of the department always blew us off, pouring their crop of eager kids into the school paper.

In the world I find myself in today, this mentality still exists in some shape or form, except replace radio with blogging.

Average, everyday people now have the ability to publish content online to a worldwide audience and instantly have their material syndicated, archived, searchable, and shared. Their thoughts can be timely, thought provoking, or news breaking.

The other side of the coin is that a blogger’s integrity can be questionable. This can be due to a lack of fact checking, poor writing style, method of conveying the story properly, and so on.

However, it’s not out of the question for a journalist to have those same faults. Retractions get printed in the newspaper on a daily basis, admitting an error and correcting it, so no matter how well you were schooled in the methods of journalism, poor reporting methods are not rare in traditional media.

When it comes down to the question of blogging killing journalism, there is a point where you have to pull away from the concept of which one is better than the other. They both have their strengths and weaknesses, but the final resting point is respectability.

If a newspaper prints consistently incorrect facts, you can’t trust that as a legitimate news source. The same can be said about any blog. If an author presents material that goes beyond something that you disagree with (i.e. erroneous facts or plagiarized content), then you probably will stray away from that website. Just as there is the concept of journalist integrity, blogs have the same responsibility to their audience.

The thing is, this is the Internet, so not everyone has to abide by these rules. Blogs have different flavors, and people will generate whatever they want, however they want. The same can be said about magazines or other various forms of print media. It’s up to the audience to find it and decide if it’s worth the consumption.

Bad bloggers hurt blogging. Bad journalists hurt journalism. Journalism would love nothing more than to kill blogging, but you can’t give someone a voice and then take it away.

The other day, I heard about a fellow with a rich career as a journalist say that “all blogs are bullshit.” It’s that statement that makes me flashback to those days of fighting to be recognized by that school of journalism. I also see this argument never having any conclusion.

I can’t say that blogging is killing journalism as much as journalism is trying to take down something that threatens the foundation it is built upon. Instead of trying to coexist, only one can be the better.

Like I said before, my thoughts on this topic have given away to about as much excitement as watching golf on TV. It’s not worth my time, and I’d rather focus on giving myself more voice about the world versus what I’m told to believe by a handful, in terms of the world’s population, journalists. I take satisfaction is hearing from the people who live where the news is happening, while it’s happening.

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3 Replies to “Is blogging killing journalism?”

  1. I think blogging and traditional journalism are still different. That’s not to say that one day they’ll be completely merged, but for now I really think they serve (mostly) two different purposes: Traditional journalism is more about breaking the news and blogging is more about spreading the news and provoking thought.

    I think traditional journalism (good journalism, anyway) seeks to dive deeper into the chosen topic. Whether the story is the writer’s idea, a result of breaking news, or pitched by an organization, a good journalist should be seeking to obtain more information about the story than what may be public information or whatever was obtained on a press release. Traditional journalists (from what I can see) seem to spend more time seeking out relevant sources and finding out more information about a topic than do bloggers (unless I’m just reading the wrong blogs). Perhaps it’s not a case of traditional journalists seeking out that additional info moreso than bloggers, but perhaps it’s a case of officials, PR people, CEOs, Directors and other people of importance in many situations not being willing to give bloggers the time. Whatever the reason, it seems to me that more ‘hard facts’ are originating with traditional journalists.

    Bloggers, on the other hand, are very quick to jump on breaking news and 1) spread that news very quickly to their followers, and 2) apply their opinion to it. What that does, is show what’s of value to the public and, to some extent, perpetuates whatever the latest trends are i.e. people look to bloggers to see what all the cool kids think before forming their own opinions.

    From what I can see, the only true news breaking via blogs is technology news to begin with. This is, however, the opinion of a girl with absolutely no journalism or communications education to speak of.

  2. I don’t have journalism or communications education either, but I have engaged with many students of both areas. The topic is definitely one that merits much more discussion. The ethics of blogging, the very fuzzy divide between blogging and journalism, etc.

    But I wonder if journalists actually see bloggers as “lesser beings”. Any thoughts?

  3. Hey John,

    Great post. And obviously food for a lot more thought. I’ll preface this by saying that I too went to “journalism school,” and have worked in newspaper, television, radio and as a uh…blogger. I’ll rant now, and you decide if I’m completely full of it 😉

    What this boils down to, as I see it, is credibility. Journalists have their ethics, which as you point out, they are not always true to. They have their biases too, so it’s more about who you trust to filter information on your behalf and then present it to you in its edited form.

    The same is true of blogging. The reader chooses whose opinion to trust and whose to dismiss as “bullshit.” Me thinks the old boy in John’s example doth protest too much. Chances are he’s come across some useful “journalism” and even fact-checked his own stories on blogs, but he’s either resisting this inevitable movement because he feels threatened, or trying to ruffle feathers for the very same reason.

    All blogs have done to journalism is give the information gatherer (viewer, reader, site visitor, etc) a lot more options as to where they get their information from,a nd the option to print their own opinions in response. It has forced journalists to be better at what they do, and faster. Along the way, some have even joined the conversation, and those that do are likely very grateful for the added perspective.

    I disagree with Michelle: “From what I can see, the only true news breaking via blogs is technology news to begin with.”

    Apologies Michelle, but that’s what the old cronies in the newsroom would have you believe. See: Citizen journalism. Any news worth knowing is breaking on blogs long before the “news” airs it (or can even THINK about printing it) and I would argue that it does so in much more raw and true fashion then after it goes through the newsroom. I would rather see the reaction/viewpoint of the kid with the cellphone who happened to be one the scene when the earthquake hit- on his terms.

    And that, dear friends is why so many journalists feel threatened by blogs: because blog software is faster than printing presses, and are unfettered by a veiled attempt at being objective. And when it comes down to it, that’s what we want. Our own version of the truth, not yours. If we have to hunt through 10s of millions of blogs to find it, then so be it.

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