Journalist in not getting blogging shock

It’s hard not to raise a smile at Dave Hill’s gentle fisking of his local newspaper’s rather arbitrary leader on why teh blogging is rubbish. The column is the kind of thing you’d have expected half or dozen a so years ago when blogging wasn’t as mainstream or as popular as it is now, and everybody (read: the media) seemed convinced citizen journalism via bogs was going to take down traditional media and rule the world and journalists were worried they’d become redundant. Or something.

Fast forward to today (or, if you happen to be reading this light years in the future, 2008) and bloggers haven’t exactly killed off the medium of print, although they have changed the nature of journalism, and how that change will finally pan out is unclear.

But the two are sitting, if not exactly comfortably together, in closer proximity than perhaps was expected. Most major papers now have blogs where journalists and, horrors, the great unwashed interact. Even more shocking is the number of journalists who maintain their own blogs. In their own time! Lawks! Who’d thunk it. Look, there’s one. And here’s another. And, my gosh, another. They’re bloody everywhere.

And what’s more it’s not just journalists who can write and have opinions. A lot of other people do it rather well, often in a niche area. One of the trouble with journalists is, unless we end up seriously specialising, our knowledge is spread a little thin and there’s invariably people out there who know more about the topic than we do. Which is, I think, largely a good thing. Holding the fourth estate to account and all that. And, blimey, occasionally you can learn something. Hell, transparency, which is pretty hot on the web these days, is a good thing. After all, journalists call for it all the time, right?

Ok, blogland does have more than its fair share of tub-thumping nutters who do like causing a shit-storm and enjoying the controversy. That’s largely the nature of a free and open platform for publishing. I’d hazard a guess than the majority of the tub-thumping nutters can also be found among the retired colenels in the letters pages of local newspapers. At the very least, they’re no less nutty than some of the people who write in.

But one of the great things about blogs and other social media is how they’ve changed the nature of newsgathering.

Certainly, today’s journalists are as likely to be tracking a breaking story online using Technorati, Summize and Twing as they are door-knocking (and both have their merits and disadvantages, and are best used in conjunction). Similarly, they’re turning into a great source of news as more newsworthy people get blogs. 

So it’s just slightly depressing to read the following comments in the leader column:

“It’s accepted practice – particularly if a public figure makes controversial remarks on a blog – for newspapers to use them as source material for their follow-up story, subject to the paper contacting the person quoted to check that what appeared is accurate.”

“For a blogger to moan that what they themselves put in the public domain has somehow been pillaged because a newspaper hasn’t acknowledged them smacks of breath-taking petulance.”

And is also one of the fastest ways to severely hack off the blogging community.
I’m not disagreeing with the idea of using blogs as source material, providing the information is verified. There’s fair comment, and taking chunks to build the article around is, in my book, fine, but it helps if you at least let your readers know where you got your information from. Hence trackbacks and links and the like in blogs.
But there’s a world of difference between quoting a blog (or any other piece of work) and lifting the whole thing wholesale, not that national organisations would ever do such a thing.
Put this another way. I have no problem with people quoting or referencing this blog, especially if they find it interesting. To me, it’s a great way of getting feedback, extending conversations, getting points of view I wouldn’t have thought of and, yes, a slightly nice feeling that somebody actually thinks what I’ve written is worth reading and discussing further. And that’s a feeling I got in journalism as well. But if anybody thinks they can lift an entire post, they’ll get an invoice off me for work. Like they would from any freelancer. And I’m not in blogging to make money. If I was, I’d have been out on the streets long ago.
It may seem like I’ve probably just sat grandmother down and spent over an hour teaching her to suck eggs with the help of every egg-sucking training aid on the market. But sometimes it’s worth repeating these things, especially when you combine said leader with the Gripe section in the last issue of The Journalist (thanks to Pink Sunshine for sending me a copy).
When you have a member of the NUJ’s national executive write the following:
“Too often, blogs seem like slags or slogs, probably both; disappointing slogs through slaggings off. Perhaps when blogs have grown up a little more they’ll be better. For many, still, maturity seems a long way off.”
it makes you realise that even though blogging is very much part of the media, there’s still a large number of journalists who don’t or won’t get the potential benefits to their own industry.
[In fairness to The Journalist, there were several good pieces on why bloggers and web-writers need to be accepted into the Union, and how social media can be used for journalism].
Not every journalist makes a good blogger, and certainly not every blogger makes a good journalist. But there’s so much more to the internet, and the communities, and the conversations that take place around these communities. Conversations that don’t necessarily need newspapers to facilitate them.
Quite whether the two writers of the respective columns utilise social media for journalistic purporses, I’ve no idea. But I know if I were at a local paper, I’d like to be engaging with people who can shape my paper, buy my paper, engage with my paper, produce ways to make my paper more profitable, and ultimately help gather news for the paper.
Because, at the end of the day, journalism, local or otherwise, done well will be read accordingly. And journalism done well than engages online with its audience stands a chance of being read, shared and trusted by far more people than a print run could manage.
[And, just to round things off, I stumbled across the initial post from Dave Hill via Martin Stabe]

8 Responses to “Journalist in not getting blogging shock”

  1. 1 Craig McGill July 17, 2008 at 9:46 am

    Good piece that raises interesting points. One of the most frustrating things about blogs being mentioned in print though is that they normally just say ‘writing on his blog’ without adding an indication of where to find the blog.

    Another thing that throws many journalists is the idea of linking or referencing other people’s sites – sometimes even the competition.

    On v1 of I used to get emails from colleagues at other national papers going ‘thanks for the link dafty’ as they couldn’t see why I would mention the competition. I’ve given up on trying to explain Twitter to people (well I have now after my piece at AllMediaScotland).

    I’m waiting for the day when all the current journalists who blog retire – and then start reporting as OAPs with too much time on their free hands.

  2. 2 Joanne Mallon July 17, 2008 at 11:45 am

    Good chewy post. Lots to think about. Who do you mean when you refer to the “blogging community”? Isn’t the Blogiverse too big for true community spirit to exist? Or is blogging in itself stretching the defninition of community?

    I don’t know if in the future all journalists will blog, but certainly the day is coming when a personal website replaces the traditional CV/portfolio as a way of presenting your work.

  3. 3 Gary Andrews July 18, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    Good question Joanne. I guess with the ‘blogging community’ I was thinking about the general ethos and unwritten code (God, that sounds a bit daft even as I write it) that tends to surround blogging rather than a community as a whole.

    When you get one blogger attacked by lawyers or dealt with poorly by traditional media or other similar companies, I’ve tended to notice that other bloggers, even if they’re unrelated to the topic that’s being blogged about, will tend to offer their support and criticise the the supposed offender.

    I don’t think all journalists should necessary blog. But it certainly helps if they understand how blogging works, why people blog, and how they can be used as news sources.

  4. 4 notontheguestlist July 20, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    Great piece. I get lots of flack for doing my blog. It is admittedly, a “slog” perhaps, as its content is pretty shallow – but hey, that’s what the sector of journalism I’m interested in is all about. We can’t all aspire to be the next Andrew Marr after all can we? And besides, people do enjoy reading them, and I also get plenty of praise for it as well, as I try to be at least engaging in my writing.

    I even got some weirdo telling me he hopes I die on my comments the other day (one of the negative aspects of blogging) – but nothing will stop me from doing it because I love to write. Simple as that.

  5. 5 Bock the Robber July 21, 2008 at 9:42 pm

    Why do some journalists think they invented writing? Why do some journalists believe nobody else can write well?

    I hate the word “blog”. Apart from being an ugly word in itself, it suggests incompetence and dilettantism, and I think we’ll soon see a split. The blogging world as we know it will divide into those who continue with the sort of on-line diary that was the original web-log, while a more structured privately-run web-site will emerge as a separate entity. Many exist alreay and have surprisingly high editorial standards.

    There’s no longer a useful definition of a blog. It could even be argued that with newspapers now going on line and publishing round the clock, they have become large, well-resourced blogs.

    Talking of major organisations lifting content, I had a little experience myself during the week with one of News International’s less salubrious organs.

  6. 6 william perrin August 4, 2008 at 9:51 pm

    Interesting discussion. I run a kind of community news and information website on a blogging platform in kings cross in north london. with a team of about six writers and a network of a dozen or so informants we cover ultra local issues in an area about a mile long by half a mile wide. we aren’t normally interested in anything outside the area and fit into Bock’s category of a privately run website.

    we have a symbiotic relationship with the local press – the islington gazette and occasionally the islington tribune. we run stuff that they then pick up, they give me a ring and sometimes they run a quote. i don’t give bugger really whether they credit me or not, it’s all about telling people about the area, not my ego.

    sometimes i re-run stuff that is in the local paper that my 200 readers a day might not have seen

    i don’t normally break out into the bloggosphere but i found myself commenting on this piece at the Press Gazette

    because i ‘broke the story’, not the Tribune.

    charlie beckett once accused me of being a journalist – i was quite offended. he might as well have called me an offset lithographer because my pages can be printed out laid up. I just write stuff about my community and publish it, why do i need an industrial era label?

  1. 1 A Review of Aimeee Morrison’s Blogs and Blogging: Text and Practice. « mary1fogarty Trackback on March 30, 2011 at 12:53 pm
  2. 2 Just when blogging seemed a waste of time… | Simon's Homework Trackback on November 27, 2011 at 6:09 pm

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July 2008

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Yes, this is my name. And my email. Use it wisely or you're not getting a biscuit with your tea: garyllewellynandrews [at] gmail [dot] com

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