Day: April 30, 2006

Blogging ain’t journalism

(This is a reconstruction of an earlier post lost when our server crashed in midweek. Idiot me didn’t save a backup.)

I’m a journalist. Been one all my life. It’s all I ever really wanted to do. I love getting to the truth behind spin, uncovering facts our elected officials would rather keep hidden, and writing about things that make a community, a state or a nation unique.

In today’s Internet-driven world, people too often confuse bloggers with journalists. Some bloggers consider themselves journalists. Most, even those who aspire to be journalists, are not. They confuse opinion with facts, perception with truth and bias with objectivity.

To their credit, most bloggers make no pretense at journalism. They write about things that affect or move them. Fred First at Fragments from Floyd is a good example. So is David St. Lawrence at Ripples. David also mixes in some journalism, reporting on what is or is not happening in and around the Floyd County area.

Philadelphia journalist Jonathan Last has some excellent thoughts on the subject:

It wasn’t until last year that I became convinced the Internet was the locus of all evil in the known universe.

You may find this statement odd. After all, the Internet pays my mortgage, so I have a vested interest in its continued success. I’ve been the online editor of the Weekly Standard (www.weeklystandard.com) since 2001, and I was dabbling on the InterWeb long before that. I launched a Web zine with two college friends in 1997, before Web zines were cool. In 2004, I started a little blog. I may be an idiot, but I’m not a Luddite.

But last year, a flack called me from one of America’s most prestigious think tanks and invited me to participate in a panel on “The Impact of the New Media.” The event, he explained, would work like this: Six distinguished panelists, three from the Old Media and three from the New Media, would argue on stage in a discussion moderated by another famous Old Media personage. I was invited to be one of five bloggers who would sit in the audience blogging about the panel discussion, with our comments to be projected on a screen above the stage, in real time!

This stunt struck me as a good bit of synecdoche. The New Media in general, and blogs in particular, are concerned primarily with the meta (that is, commenting on commentary), which makes the blogosphere occasionally useful, often harmful, and ultimately pointless.

I’ve met, interviewed, and worked with a lot of bloggers over the years, and for the most part, they’re swell folks. The defects I see are largely – maybe even exclusively – inherent in the medium, and not the result of individual failings. Whether the person blogging is a pajama-clad lawyer or a Pulitzer-winning journalist, the medium is the message, and the message of blogging is: More! FASTER!

Blogs can be a real force for good when they act as supra fact-checkers. They can add serious value when they quickly elevate experts in obscure topics to the fore of public discussion (see, for example, the Bush “National Guard memo“). And they have enormous potential to enable on-the-ground reporting when news happens suddenly or in remote locations. We’ve seen some of this potential realized, as in sites such as Iraq the Model, but not nearly so much as one might have hoped.

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