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Blogging vs Journalism

March 25, 2010

When I started this blog, I described it as a symptom of the vanity that a digital age has given us all. I didn’t know what this blog would be about, and it turns out it is about me. It isn’t a description of my life, but it is a window to my perspective on the world. It is my opinion.

I am no more qualified than anyone else to hold those opinions, and don’t have access to information which isn’t easily available.

I have heard much comment recently about the threat of blogging to journalism. I have to say, I am not sure that that threat exists. I don’t see how one challenges the other.

When I read blogs, I am reading the thoughts that people publish online. I see a window into their thought processes, opinions, and it is fascinating. Some are more likely to bring me back to read more, and some are of a much higher quality than the comment and opinion I read in the newspaper. Some are barely readable, and some, like mine- do not seem to be able to grasp that you don’t add a comma every time you pause.

If you had the capacity to read every single blog, I think what you would see is a snapshot of the worlds consciousness- there for everyone to read. Unfettered by editorial demands, market forces, ethics or standards. Just for that, it has value.

What gives blogging its value, is the same thing that ensures it is no threat to journalism. The fact that so many newspapers have let the lines blur between journalism and opinion- is not the fault of the blogosphere. Nor is the fact that so many blogs stand head and shoulders above some of what appears in our print media.

People have easy access to information, and are less likely to look to journalists as their sole way of informing themselves. Shoddy reporting becomes apparent very quickly- and people have a more voracious appetite for quality reporting than ever before. They are also  increasingly able to tell the difference.

The only journalists  bloggers are a threat to are those who have lost sight of that difference.

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6 comments

  1. The challenge that blogging poses for journalism is the tempation for journalism, and the mass media in general to embrace the mediocre, the lowest common denominator.

    The unfortunate reality of a truly democratic media is that it’s just so painfully… average.

    By catering to the widest audience, the mass media panders to the common, and alienates those to want better.

    Bloggers can focus on a micro niche, and they can adhere to higher standards. A blog is not (usually) a channel broadcasting to millions. It’s a channel for broadcasting to targeted thousands.


    • See- now you made me think about the wholething again. I may need to write another blog post!


  2. I have to say, I don’t agree John. Yes bloggers have the benefit of a smaller target audience, (although they have the possible scrutiny of everyone), and they are also often more expert in the fields that a journalist may be. However, how many times have you read a blog which can rip apart an article within the first few sentences that requires no expert knowledge, just a willingness to question what is being said? I know I regularly do.

    Just because newspaper journalism is for the mass market does not excuse lies or having done little or no research on a story. Your suggestion that the mass market only requires the lowest standards is wrong. I don’t mean to criticise you, but I think there is an intellectual snobbery in that suggestion and it’s one that is perpetrated by the producers of the media.

    There will always be people who do want basic, easy to read rubbish, that confirms any beliefs and prejudices they have, but I do believe that the mass market are not as dumb as they are made out to be. Unfortunately, newspapers have, for a long time, been the source of News and truth for a lot of people.

    The mass market requires the highest standards in truth and honesty. The problem is that it seems to be taking a long time for that market to realise quite how badly they are being lied to on a daily basis.

    Hopefully with the spread of information from bloggers and the internet in general, journalists are eventually going to have to adhere to higher standards as more and more people realise what ‘News’ is being fed to them.


    • ”There will always be people who do want basic, easy to read rubbish, that confirms any beliefs and prejudices they have, but I do believe that the mass market are not as dumb as they are made out to be. Unfortunately, newspapers have, for a long time, been the source of News and truth for a lot of people.”

      Lorraine- this is the point I think it comes down to. People want their views validated- and I think the danger is that people look to blogs which validate their views-, in the same way people looked to poor journalism. I do think there is a change happening though. I genuinely think people are getting much better at differentiating between the two.

      Have pondered this, and you can’t say that ‘bloggers’ as a whole are striving for better quality- because ultimately bloggers are as diverse as our society- self publication means there are no standards governing us, and for every blogger who is trying to govern themselves in that way- there are a dozen more that aren’t.

      I try to make sure my blog posts are factually accurate, I try to ensure my opinions are informed- but I am the only quality assurance-and I think it would be foolish to pretend that I am the best person to critically evaluate myself. When I am researching an article, it takes days- a blog post can take ten minutes, and be an immediate response. I am always willing to amend if necessary- but the two are very different.

      I think there is value in reading thoughts unfettered by other demands- but we have to know precisely what that value is.


  3. You’re right, just like most people, I also tend to read blogs that confirm my views on the whole and absolutely there will be blogs that aren’t good quality or well researched.

    I think the diversity is one of the great things about blogs and the internet in general. Because I can click from link to link to link, I often I read some things that I wouldn’t normally have read and don’t agree with. And with a good argument, I might even be convinced that another point of view is more valid than the one I had before starting.

    However, I don’t actually think the main benefit is the content itself (although hopefully, as I said, the wealth of good blogs will force the print media to improve). I think it’s what blogs and reading anything on the internet teaches you, and this is also the main thing that I am trying to teach my son about the internet and any source of information:

    You can always find information from all points of view, you will always find something that validates what you think, whether right or wrong, but what you do learn is to think for yourself, to criticically evaluate the source and the information that you are being given and decide for yourself what you believe.

    I think ultimately this is the problem with the print media, they are still viewed by many as a source that don’t need read with any critical evaluation.


    • Exactly. If our kids are going to have access to information that we never did- they need to know how to evaluate it. I know its a jump- but its like the climate change debate. I am not a scientist, but I can learn to evaluate the reliability of a source, how to read information, and how to spot the difference between a rhetorical device and a scientific argument.

      All information has a value, but we have to know how to assess what that value is. And it is important to understand what we are reading actually is.

      I am not trying to do myself down- I do work to try and make sure that my stuff is as reliable as possible- but I don’t have fact checkers, or editors, or standards forcing me to. I have a very clear bias on many issues, opinions do- and I can’t say that a post written in ten minutes, as a response to a news story-has the same value as a well researched article from an expert.

      It would be disingenous to pretend any different.



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