Monday, 4 March 2013

Is blog really a dirty word?



Let's be clear straight away: Blogging is not journalism. It's not old journalism, and it's not even new journalism. I'm not being snobbish when I say that: I'm a blogger, not a journalist.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a longer piece about why bloggers need to be honest about their business models. This is in part because trade guidelines require it, but also because much of their business depends on readership, and readers need to be rewarded for their loyality (and custom) with honesty.

It was interesting then for me to read several articles about dishonesty and the bad reputation that blogging sometimes earns.

However, I don't particularly identify with the type of blogging mentioned in ManRepeller.com's piece Blog is a dirty word. I don't mean that I can't identify blogs like that in the blogger world; I can. But that's not me. And it's certainly not the entire blogosphere. It's a part of the blogosphere.

Ditto this article, Fashion blogging has a transparency problem. This op-ed highlights some of the problems I mentioned last week; including a lack of dishonesty about advertising and funding.

These pieces are interesting, and I don't disagree with them, but I think there are a couple of take-aways about blogging that I have from these pieces. First, blogging is still a relatively new medium. Online journaling has been around for 15-20 years, Blogger itself was launched in 1999, but it's evolving as a style.

Second, blogging is not journalism. If you Google "blogging is not journalism" you'll find some interesting debate on the matter, but I think I'm right in saying that they are very different mediums.

Blogging takes many forms. In essence there are two kinds, which I outlined, but the style and variety of blogging means it's hard to generalize. There are the lookbook fashion blogs, with product reviews and self-portraits. There are almost-journalism blogs, or citizen-journalism blogs, with investigative stories that the mainstream news didn't cover or didn't uncover. There are person stories, fictional pieces, craft and DIY and much much more. But what is similar for most of these is that they are organic, most are home-grown. Most have an element of stream of consciousness, an unfinished what-happens-next feeling. Some of that is deliberate, designed to make the reader come back. Some of that is simply because blogging allows for the discussion of unfinished thoughts.

Another distinction is that Journalism is not narcissism. Or it's not meant to be. 

There are similarities with journalism. News journalism will have that what-happens-next-feeling as news unfolds or as follow-up stories are investigated. Plus news journalism can cover many subjects too. But it's tightly written (even online), and bound by different grammar and code. Journalists are trained to find facts, cover all sides of a story, and to do so ethically. Some journalists also blog, but they are probably journalists first and foremost.

Journalism resource Poynter recently asserted this though: Don't assume journalists have more training than bloggers in truth-telling. Journalists may have qualified to be journalists by learning to code, write copy, interview subjects and to abide by media law. Bloggers don't need to qualify to become bloggers. And a lot of them are very good.

The Man Repeller article actually defends blogging as symptomatic of an under-employed Gen Y populace finding their own way (and own income) as digital entrepreneurs:
"Darwinism will always prevail. The strong will continue to survive and the weak will eventually begin to weed off. The question is, what will make us strong? It seems like the blogging landscape must tackle some serious change."
There's no official qualification to become a blogger. And that's the point. It is not journalism.  Sometimes it may pretend to be, but at heart it doesn't want to be. I believe the problems with honesty and advertising will continue for a while as commercial blogging comes of age. Light-touch regulations such as the FTC guidelines will become more important, but there will always be problems with blogging and authenticity and honesty that doesn't (or shouldn't) exist in the journalism world (more on media law later though).

Blogging and journalism are both democratic now by nature, and readers will always be able to call out bloggers for making mistakes, whether factual, ethical, or business.
I am still studying towards my diploma in journalism, and for a time I wanted to pursue a career in pure journalism, although I was a little apprehensive. I realized that being apprehensive doesn't fit with pursuing a career in journalism, but I can use old and new journalistic skills and techniques in other ways. That's not dirty in the slightest, in fact, I think that's the point.

What do you think? I'd love to know. As I'm still working through my journalism courses, and pursuing similar interests, I'd love to keep blogging my thoughts on media and culture. What do you think about Monday slot on these themes?

4 comments:

  1. I love it, I'd like to hear more about this kind of thing each week :) I agree with your statement that said that readers will always call out bloggers for making mistakes and being dishonest. It's easy to see when a blog has lost its "organic" nature.

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    1. Thanks, I'm working on some more pieces on this theme.

      I agree when you can see a blog has lost its organic nature, and I do lament it when I see it.

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  2. LOVE this. thoughts:

    I agree that all these articles pinpoint a corner of the blogosphere - it's just too bad it's one of the most vocal corners!

    Unfortunately, though, I think that blogging has diluted journalism and lowered the standards. I think journalists now think they can get away with more because people's range of acceptance is broader. (Does that make sense?) Most people don't know that blogging isn't journalism so they think that anything they read online is learned and true.

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    1. So sorry I didn't reply earlier - I certainly agree with you. Especially when news outlets feel the need to editorialize more in order to maintain ratings/clicks.

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