Blogging vs. Journalism

I don’t want to belabor this debate, but building on some things I’ve sprinkled during the first four weeks and pivoting off our guest speaker’s words today — did you notice how often she tried to differentiate blogging and journalism? — let’s hash this out Wednesday.

First, read Jay Rosen’s “classic” piece, “Bloggers vs. Journalists is Over,” which he wrote nearly four years ago (that seems like forever in Web years, no?). It captures the essence of this debate. Then, read his update from last week — “If Bloggers Had No Ethics Blogging Would Have Failed, But it Didn’t. So Let’s Get a Clue” — which focuses on ethics, trust, and the open-vs.-closed distinctions of blogging vs. journalism.

Finally, take a look at this month’s Columbia Journalism Review, which has this piece of interest: “The Bigger Tent: Forget Who is a journalist; the important question is, What is journalism?

What’s your take on this?

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9 Responses to “Blogging vs. Journalism”


  1. 1 Caitlin W September 23, 2008 at 10:52 pm

    I really, really love Jay Rosen’s opinions. They are so well put. Definitely, as a journalism student (and as many of us have already said,) it worries me to think in any way that all of the work and money and time I’m putting into my education could somehow not make much of a difference, because so many people now have access to report stories. Still, I think what all 3 articles seem to say is, credibility is still going to determine whether a blog sinks or swims. Thus, our education in journalism is prepping us and making our writing more sophisticated, which will then make it more appealing to the masses. I definitely think that journalists are going to have to be better about having conversations with their “audience,” because the top-down model just isn’t going to appeal to people anymore.

    The one thing that I still feel is a little fuzzy is the idea of web ethics. For example, reading about the woman who got into the Obama speech because she contributed – I think the information she put out was important, as the last article contested, but I just don’t know that it’s right to gain access to a place by “lying,” in a way. If she had been a real supporter, and happened to have her cell phone or something and recorded the incident and shared it, that would have been one thing. But to pretend to be a supporter. . .could she have just said that she was wanting to report on the meeting for her blog? It seems to me that Obama’s campaign is pretty online-friendly, so I feel that if she had been up-front about her desires, she would have gained access.

    Lastly, I love the idea of transparency, instead of “objectivity.” I feel like, as a human being, sometimes I can’t help but put my own feelings and thoughts into my work. Particularly if it is something I am passionate about. I don’t think this means I’ll go off and only give a one-sided report on something; on the other hand, once I give both sides, I would love the ability to then say, “OK, so this is how *I* interpret this.” As long as we explain where we are coming from, I think it is time to stop dancing around issues because of a fear that we will be seen as biased one way or the other, which can then lead to incomplete reporting.

    Great articles! What does everyone else think?

  2. 2 Holley N September 24, 2008 at 12:53 am

    Bloggers v. Journalists is over…My thoughts:
    Jay Rosen makes an excellent point that when celebrities, or anyone for that matter, want to get the word out about something, they can do it through their blog, or their personal website. It goes back to what we talked about in class, that the news media is no longer just this filter to the public of world events. The public can get their information from a countless number of sources, and they, themselves, can also be one of those sources.

    Rosen talks about the “professional imagination” in Big Journalism not being ready for all these changes, and I think in some ways, Big Journalism is STILL not ready to accept the changes. This is evident through our class discussion about newsrooms still trying to be everything to everyone instead of discovering what it is they do best.

    Another note: Rosen discusses objectivity being a news value that is now in the past, and I noticed this idea seemed to echo Beth Frerking’s thoughts, that the days of news people holding themselves as objective reporters are gone…that now, we know Fox has a lean to the right, like other stations have a lean to the left, despite their claim of balanced, fair coverage.

    It’s really interesting that Rosen comes back in this second article to address the fact that the bloggers v. journalists controversy will most likely live on. I believe there is truth in the idea of bloggers being the filter in an open system, because of the two-way, feedback the blogging world allows. While keeping a blog is writing without an institution to back you up, I think, knowing people are trusting you, causes bloggers to be extra cautious about the information they filter, and make available.

    Finally on “The Bigger Tent:”
    “American journalism was calcified, too self-important to correct its errors or own up to its biases, too pompous to talk with its audience, rather than at it.” This reminded me of something Beth Frerking said on Monday, that instead of the media talking to you, the Internet has allowed the media to talk with us. After all, wouldn’t everyone prefer to have a conversation rather than being told information as if from an untouchable source? We all want to be heard, and to be able to give feedback. This article makes a good point about old and new practitioners working together. I really believe there is still a need for traditional news values, but it is all a matter of applying them to this new medium.

  3. 3 Briana C September 24, 2008 at 1:34 am

    The point that i think these three articles equally stressed is the fact that in the big ball game of journalism, there’s room for everyone. Both mainstream news and blogging, as well as professional and pro-am journalists must find a way ti capitalize on the strengths of their discipline, and work together to provide the public which is a problematic term now) with quality and factual news. The debate of journalists vs bloggers must stop. There’s room for everyone at the table. While the fact that anyone with a connection to the internet can become a journalist is a little scary for me, i think that it is an empowering tool for democracy. Jay rosen spoke of the first amendment… and its manifestation in blogging. That’s pretty cool to think about. Also, i agree with caitlin on the fact that objectivity has done more of a disservice to journalism than been an asset. Objective journalism is how we got into this war. I also was surprised to hear that sucha small percentage of americans believe the main stream news is not biased. If not for credibility, what does main stream news have? In this time of discombobulation in the field of journalism, i’m left with more questions than answers. But, maybe that’s a good thing. But like most every one else, my main question is: will i get a job?!
    -Briana

  4. 4 pieper12 September 24, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    After our debate in class today, Jeff and I seemed to agree on many topics that blogging is just more beneficial than traditional journalism. Although as a class, we all came to the conclusion that credibility and credentials is still a big factor in relying on the authors.

    I think it’s interesting how Rosen says blogging empowers democracy today. It is true and it goes back to the “loss of objectivity” point because people can speak freely and give their own opinions without being censored. For someone wanting to just get mad or promote something, blogging is the way to go! But if someone is trying to tell a story in a news-like fashion in hopes of gaining a large, diversified audience, they should probably stick to the general rules of traditional journalism.

    It is a scary thought that we are going through all of this work in school and paying money to learn, when anyone can get behind a computer and type up a little something for their blog while we are writing basically the same article for an actual publication! This is where, I think, the credentials will come into play.

    I think that overall, blogging and online journalism is definitely taking over and hopefully for educated journalists, they will still be able to compete in this market and hopefully have an upper hand with their background skills, etc.

  5. 5 Kristin September 24, 2008 at 11:07 pm

    I think the most important concept that Rosen revealed was that whether or not the “debate” is ongoing, blogging doesn’t mean the end of journalists. On the contrary, there will be an increased need for them. Bloggers can accomplish things that “pro journalists” cannot (like niche writing, and stories about obscure, but important issues, as well as creating a buzz around a story that may have otherwise been dropped by main stream and forcing it back into public eye).

    While blogs and newspapers differ greatly, they are similar in that they both call for credible, truthful, and good reporting. The way they achieve those things are very different, though. Due to the nature of the public availability of “press tools” anyone can join the “press sphere” if they so desire. However, to be successful they must edit, have good sources, and create/maintain credibility through the “ethic of the link”. In other words, judging by the links a blogger sends you to and who and how many people read, comment, and link back to their site will determine one’s credibility.

    So yes, bloggers (well, good ones at least) are here to stay for a reason: they have something important to say. And by virtue of the fact that all can, but not all will blog, the most important and vital information will bubble up to the surface. And when they’re wrong, they’ll be the first to tell you, quickly and often.

  6. 6 Mollie B. September 25, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    I think one of the most interesting points that Rosen makes is that bloggers and journalists are good for each other and that in some ways they will “feed off” each other.

    Where professional journalism has started to fail in reaching their audiences, blogging has shown journalists what needs to be done to improve. Bloggers have shown professionals how to have a conversation with their audiences rather than to just talking at them. On the other side, journalists have shown bloggers things to improve their credibility and to earn the trust of their readers.

    Which brings up another good point, and one that makes me rest a little more assured now. Credibility whether it be from journalists or bloggers seems to still play a major role in determing who’s reports will essentially “sink or swim.” It makes me feel a little better because it appears that all of us attending journalism school will (hopefully) have an upper hand in earning credibility once we get out in the real world.

    Kind of on a side note maybe, in regards to “The Bigger Tent” article and a reference about CNN’s iReports. I think that major news industries, or broadcast industries more specifically, really should be careful about the use of such things like this. I mean if it’s a piece of video or audio that is breaking news and no one else has the same thing, then it might be all right to utilize it. But the other day I was driving in my car listening to the xm’s CNN Headline News radio station and they used one of these iReports about those gas stations on the east coast that are running out of gas. In the iReport a man gave his location, told us it was early morning, told us that some of the big 18-wheelers were starting to fill up their tanks as soon as the station opened, and then said that very soon here the station will have a long line of cars waiting to fill up. I thought to myself, “Wow. You think?” I did not see the point at all in CNN’s use of that sound bite. It in no way advanced the story that CNN presented, and it was basically the same thing the anchor had just said. So even though I understand some stations are trying to get their audience more involved, in my opinion this was not the way to go.

  7. 7 Caroline Page September 25, 2008 at 11:07 pm

    I haven’t read or known much about Jay Rosen until this class, but I value and respect his opinions that we have read thus far. He states his thoughts plainly and is obviously rich with knowledge on the subject of Web 2.0. After thinking on the issue of bloggers vs. journalists a lot (and not just in this class, but throughout my education here) I have boiled down my qualms with citizen journalism to the issue of TRUST. How do I know whether a blogger is credible, why should I trust them? On the other hand, mainstream media is criticized in the same way: ‘why should I trust the thoughts of bias journalists?’ My point in mentioning this is that Rosen’s discussion of trust among bloggers and journalists struck a chord with me.

    “Instead of starting with ‘do blogs have credibility?’ or ‘should blogging obey journalism ethics?’ we should begin in a broader territory, which is trust. Trust as it is generated in different settings, online and off, in both blogging and in journalism— or in life.”

    The point which Rosen drove him in both articles and what I need to remind myself about is specific blogs and bloggers earn trust because of their record. If a blog is full of a bunch of idiot bloggers who know nothing about anything, it won’t get picked up and people won’t learn to respect and watch for their opinions. Particular blogs/bloggers have a following because they have earned that.

    In Rosen’s recent piece about blogging and ethics, I liked his graph stating that journalists should blog, if for nothing else, but to become familiar with the web and what getting “picked up” means, etc. I agree with him and know as I’m trying to become more marketable in the job search, it is crucial to have as complete of a grasp as possible on the entirety of journalism today – not just how to write, report or edit.

    The CPJ article was interesting and thorough as well – it hit a lot of the same points we have discussed and Rosen addressed. I was glad to see the inclusion of the graph about shield laws and how that applies to mainstream media versus citizen journalists.

  8. 8 Jane Kim September 26, 2008 at 8:02 am

    The point I agreed with most was the last paragraph of CJR – “It’s not about us, after all. It’s about keeping watch on those in power, about ensuring an informed citizenry, about maintaining a democratic culture that is strengthened by vibrant reporting on vital institutions.”

    As Rosen says, it’s not about “who is a journalist” but “what is journalism.” Shifting the focus brings a lot of clarity to the issue. It doesn’t matter if you’re a reputable journalist or a blogger or just someone on the street. If you hold up the purpose of journalism, you may not be a journalist but you are a participant of journalism.

    And different participants in journalism will have different roles. Professional journalists will still be needed to gather news from professional sources, and report facts in a balanced way. The quote from Robert Cox saying, that bloggers “are going to be naturally provocative,” made me feel like that might be the place for bloggers. They may not be as balanced or professional, but they have the privilege in having the freedom to say what they want, and challenge mainstream beliefs and attitudes.

    All in all, I think all three articles were interesting and insightful, and they had the right attitude in embracing the bloggers.

  9. 9 Saul September 26, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    I have to say, I’m convinced.

    By that I mean: I’ve always held what he calls the “nah, we’re fine” argument, which is that the MSM filter will always exist because it has to exist. I’ve always said that people need professional journalists to interpret information for them.

    I still think that. But what I had never examined was what, exactly, that filter should be. I doubt many journalists do. So for Rosen to say that given (he doesn’t call it this, but) croudsourcing, the most important thing for a filter to be is interactive–that’s revolutionary.

    In that vein, I liked how the articles refused to be journalist-centric. Journalists seem to think of conflicts within journalism as a zero-sum, intra-media game, but as Seth put it on the first day of class, “the competition for journalism is anything else that’s interesting.” If the paradigms are changing, as Rosen says they have, then that’s the viewpoint we need to keep in mind. Not what’s good for journalists, necessarily, so much as what’s good for journalism.


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