Blogs and Journalism

Next week, right before the midterm, we take up a basic question loaded with baggage—but one that’s so essential to this course that it almost forms the unconscious subtext to our class-to-class activities:

Is blogging a form of journalism?

(or, perhaps better put: Under what conditions is it journalism?)

To get you started thinking in that direction, please read the following (by the way—hint, hint—these pieces and the ideas they present likely will fit into your midterm next week) and respond by Tuesday:

First, take a look at Jay Rosen’s “classic” piece, “Bloggers vs. Journalists is Over,” which he wrote four years ago (that seems like forever in Web years, no?). It captures the essence of this debate. Then, read his 2008 update — “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. Next, read this piece from the Columbia Journalism Review, which is subtitled, “Forget Who is a journalist; the important question is, What is journalism?”


17 Responses to “Blogs and Journalism”

  1. 1 meerarajagopalan February 22, 2009 at 8:45 pm

    I think the underlying purpose for a journalist is to tell a story, which is what I feel bloggers do. They tell their story. Bloggers can be photojournalists, broadcast journalists, or print journalists. The stories bloggers tell are different then those of journalists because (most of the time) they aren’t paid to do it. It’s something they do for fun. Blogs are a way for them to tell the world what they are doing.

    I agree with the line from the Bloggers vs. Journalists is Over article’s line: “The rise of blogs does not equal the death of professional journalism.” Blogs provide information that a newspaper might not. It is a different avenue for people to get their news. Also in the “If Bloggers had no Ethics, Blogging Would have Failed, but it Didn’t so Let’s Get a Clue,” I completely agree with the idea that blogging is just an early form of citizen journalism. Most bloggers know what is right from wrong, and they use some sort of decency when they write articles/blog posts, they don’t slam people or use slander. Just as “old journalists” credit sources, new journalists cite other articles.

    I think “The Bigger Tent” article shows exactly what journalists are supposed to do, write about what they believe in, even if it means going against something higher, like the government. Journalists have a job of getting the news to the masses, even if it means making enemies along the way.

  2. 2 ldechant February 23, 2009 at 1:25 am

    I feel blogging is a way for the everyday citizen to voice their opinions about a particular subject.

    Take my favorite example, Perez Hilton. He can blog about what is going on in the celebrity realm as well as current events, but he still interjects his opinion either verbally or by drawing on the photos. I don’t think there is truly an objective blog, out there. Is this journalism? Yes and No. It is because it is informative and sheds light to the stories around the world, but it isn’t because he voices his opinion. Journalists must be OBJECTIVE. Period.

    As the reading “Bloggers vs. Journalists” cites, Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, uses his blog to voice his opinions, updates, etc. Is this journalism? I don’t think so. I don’t think a blog which posts updates about fans and gives their opinions about anything is true journalism.

    Now, with that said, do I like blogging? The answer to this is YES! I loved being able to start my blog and post things that I love to write about. I loved being able to access various entertainment sources and find photos videos and other media that could enhance the information on my page. This is a fun assignment because it could allow any one of us to pursue journalism in a way that is interesting and fun to us!

  3. 3 Amy Neyhard February 23, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    I have to agree that bloggers blog to express opinions as well as facts and events.

    In the “Bloggers vs. Journalists” article, it suggests that “Big journalism is losing great people when out of room for ideas.” Is this statement really true? I guess if the person is only doing for the love journalism but I don’t think that I would give that up just to blog. This brought up the question of why people leave to go to citizen generated news. The article says that is because of a “shift in the balance of power and big journalists influence isn’t singular anymore.” (Tom Curley) So what is this about a new balance of power? “Change is coming from the audience they serve.” Which I can see as true because majority of bloggers now want to take the news into their hands and put it into their perspective. However, in my opinion, as stated earlier, bloggers express their opinions in their stories. Yes, some do provide more details than regular news outlets but it is because most outlets realize that they need to get to the point of the story.

    Scott Rosenberg said that(journalists think) “amateurs are badly in need of skills and editors. I do have to agree with that in most cases.

    In the “If bloggers have no ethics…” article, it said that “means of production have changed hands” and the “press tools are in the hands of anyone who wants them.” Yes this is true but are they utilizing these tools effectively. Yes and sometimes no. “If anyone can, that does not m can that everyone will.” It means, “anyone who has time and reason can freely participate.”

    Everyone can really tell that “journalists have heir ethics and bloggers have theirs.” But should they really be that different if it is journalism?

  4. 4 Kristin February 23, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    After reading these articles and having an interesting interaction with someone I barely know, which I will mention in a moment, I have really been trying to figure out what I think journalism is. Because if and when someone asks me I want to be able to give them an answer rather than just grumble something or shrug my shoulders. Just yesterday a random guy who I was talking with at church told me “magazines are not journalism.” Unfortunately we did not get to continue our conversation because the “meet your neighbor” part was over, but I realized I was partially glad we didn’t continue our chat. So, he thinks magazines are not journalism, whatever “journalism” is to him, but yet here at UT we have the magazine sequence option to choose from within the journalism degree (which I am in). So then I asked myself do I think the content in magazines is journalism? And then I realized I didn’t have a definite answer.

    Just because someone’s job title is not reporter or journalist does not mean that he/she is incapable of creating good journalism. I think we need more people in various fields contributing to stories. For instance, a nurse writing a piece about a certain medical controversy. Ok, that sounds weird, but I think you get the point. Any blog can be a form of journalism depending on how you look at it. People need to be more open-minded and learn to trust others besides the typical journalist. Those Chinese writers from “The Bigger Tent” were definitely journalists in my eyes. They were writing and exposing factual information and allowing people to learn and understand the issue at hand from a unique, raw perspective. Now what about that is not journalism?

  5. 5 Simrat Sharma February 23, 2009 at 8:45 pm

    I agree with Kristin. The article from the Columbia Journalism Review highlights exactly why the availability of press tools to ordinary citizens has changed the face of news for the better. Internet users in China use the blogs as a medium to communicate their grievances about the government in a relatively safe platform which delivers their voice outside of the country’s borders, a much more imposing restriction in the past. I am in a China seminar this semester and we have been discussing the role of the internet in Chinese media and what this means for the entire political structure. A freer voice means a hundred times more in a China than it does here in the US and it holds the power to create a whole new Chinese identity.

    For example, a Charter 08, an online petition for Chinese democracy, which gained substantial support before it was outlawed, would only have been possible with web publishing and networking online. A similar non-virtual attempt would have been nipped in the bud by the China Communist Party before any outsider would even have known.

    In the other two articles by Jay Rosen, the debate is often simplified between journalist and blogger as opposed to Big Journalism and citizen/networked journalism. After all, journalism is reporting what needs to be heard and is relevant to our lives. This is something that does not need to be restricted to a profession. We cannot have our fingers on the pulse of everything. I liked the analogy Orville Schell makes in “Bloggers vs. Journalists”, likening the news industry to the Roman Empire which is being toppled and entering a period of feudalism where there are various centers of authority. To refuse acknowledging this would be counter-productive and futile, even arrogant.

    In the Ethics article, I found the ethics of the link interesting. The trust factor is the make-or-break of blogs. I think blogging has one up over ‘Big Journalism’ when the individual identifies a particular topic of interest to him, personally or professionally, which has been covered shoddily by newspapers. Niche journalism, as we have discussed, has close links to blogging success. Also, the blogger as a ‘stand alone journalist’ that people identify and draw informational support from is a workable idea. This idea needs to be accepted by journalists and media elite.

    Simply put by Rosen, “Instead of wrestling with blogging’s actual potential in journalism, we have tended to fight about bloggers’ credentials as journalists.”

  6. 6 samanthadeavin February 23, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    I found these three articles really interesting, particularly as I am also taking the Media Law and Ethics class this semester, and it’s really interesting seeing where issues of ethics and media law come into play with the new online sphere of journalism. I thought it was really interesting in the ‘Bloggers vs. Journalists is Over’ article when Rosen explained blogging as an extension of the First Amendment promise of freedom of speech and of the press. Throughout history, freedom levels for speech and the press have fluctuated, and been constantly redefined. But in recent times, I think it would be safe to say that the First Amendment guarantee has been largely upheld. Blogging, then, seems to be the natural progression in the opening up of – and the lack of restrictions on – the press and freedom of speech.

    Shouldn’t journalists, then, embrace this change? I agree with Rosen that the argument over bloggers vs. journalists is over and a redundant issue. What is really important is how to give shape and meaning to the vast amount of information available, so that it may meaningfully add to professional journalism. Journalists who are resistant to the blogosphere don’t understand Rosen’s point that the emergence of the blog and citizen journalism is not solely due to the internet and other technological advances. It is due to a loss of a core belief in journalism. The cracks and flaws at the center of conventional journalism are showing themselves and causing a fundamental shift.

    Like we’ve discussed in class, blogs fill the voids of professional journalism. They offer an identifiable voice and increase the capacity for those disseminating information to resonate and connect with readers. The article from the Columbian Journalism Review used the example of bloggers in China to show the power of the blog to challenge mainstream media. But that’s definitely not to say that the rise of the blog is the death knell of journalism. Rather, to use Rosen’s analogy, they should aim to exist as a ‘symbiotic ecosystem’, as one cannot exist without the other.

  7. 7 Justine February 23, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    Blogging is journalism if… the blogger observes the “ethic of the link,” where blogs post links to sites that post links to mores sites and so on; connect people and knowledge across the web. Blogs about personal interests such as, basket weaving are interesting and do have a place on the web but I don’t consider them “journalism.” For blogs to be journalism they need to be trustworthy and have accuracy.

    I agree with what John Hiler said about weblogs starting at zero with no trust, while mainstream media has insured trust from an established news media (Nytimes, ABC, CNN etc..)

    Blogs have to “ build their reputations from the ground up. Blog responsibly, and you’ll build a reputation for being a trusted news source. Don’t, and you won’t have a reputation to worry about.”

    Blogs have opened up opportunities for writers/journalists to write collectively about a certain topic of interest that may have been overlooked in mainstream media. They tell stories and depict information while using their opinions in a conversational style.

    I think it’s interesting how Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavs, uses his blog to communicate with fans instead of going through the press. In some ways mainstream media is the middleman and people are using the web to get around him. But I agree with Rosen that blogs will not replace the press.

    We need to “find ways to leverage the strengths of both worlds to the mutual benefit of both.”

    Using the “brain of the collective” can be a useful tool to help journalists perfect their skills. Blogs, twitter, facebook and even the internet in general has changed the way people view and understand news. As a reader of online news, I think it’s relatively easy to pick out good, trustworthy websites in which to find real journalism.

  8. 8 Jill February 23, 2009 at 10:33 pm

    One theme that I came across that interested me in Jay Rosen’s writings were the democratization of journalism. No, I don’t know if that is an actual word. But, if it is, then bloggers and their audiences are certainly doing that to the whole industry. No longer are trained journalists sovereign, instead it is a shared responsibility…Mr. Rosen’s “feudal system”. No longer journalist on a throne, it is open to everyone.

    I also noted how he is saying that more people covering the news extending the First Amendment. Although I think in some cases this might be true, its a little bit romantic. While I do feel everyone should have their First Amendment rights, if you are going under the guise of a journalist (which some bloggers are) it carries with it a certain responsibility. And what if a blogger is putting out completely false information? The situation likens itself to that classic First Amendement example where the man shouts FIRE in a crowded theatre and then defends it through freedom of speech. As far as freedom of the press, well if bloggers do have a propagandistic agenda is that really better than if those in the industry have one? I don’t think so….

    This leads me to ethics and Rosen’s second writing. One of the key ethics in that piece was increased transparency over that of the classical journalists objectivity. First, as a journalism student I think the J-schools are a little bit behind in this… objectivity is still the main virtue being taught. Second many of these ethics develop not in a purposeful contrast of traditional journalism, but instead by virtue of media of blogging: the internet. Thats what allows bloggers to correct themselves early and often, thats what allows them to track stories, thats what allows them to link and converse with their audience. Traditional media has many constraints with these(although you do see some blending with online stories).

    Ethics brings me to the last piece. I think it is interesting that American journalistic ethics based around First Amendment rights have become the ethics for the industry internationally. They exist even if the journalist doesn’t live in a free country. Could it be because journalism without freedom isn’t true journalism? State-controlled journalism…an oxymoron? I would argue yes…the truth, the WHOLE truth and nothing but the truth gets a little manipulated when in goverment/progandistic hands. Unfortunately, this happens on home-turf too. However, I would like to see what the government officials thought of CJR’s noble venture. Specifically, defending their countries journalist under the pretense of OUR countries ideals.

  9. 9 Robert Rich February 23, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    As an amateur blogger, I’m definitely in agreement with calling bloggers journalists. Sure, many aren’t, but there are several journalists who probably don’t fit the bill either, so it’s simply another case of a profession having some good eggs, and some bad ones.

    A blog is the perfect way to get a story or information across without the necessities dictated by more formal mediums, like a newspaper, magazine or professional site. A blog is simply a list of interesting tidbits, not always long, not always super comprehensive, but they get the point across, and that’s what really matters.

    They can incorporate graphics, video, you name it and it’s all for the sole purpose of informing, just like true journalism. Sorry my response is a bit short this time around, but I’m down with the blogs. Are you?!

  10. 10 Christina G February 23, 2009 at 11:47 pm

    I enjoyed Rosen’s nuanced take on bloggers versus journalists and his fearless appraoch to the subject. The idea I pick up is that professional journalists are very afraid of bloggers, and Jay uses this to his advantage by taking a fearless stance.

    I like that Jay mentions that an online filter becomes more intelligent by people interacting with it, and so lots of community involvement in any process strengthens it.

    Maybe what’s most scary about to people who want to think of news as being sent down from heaven to us through a journalist is that we in America is hugely oriented toward individualism and not so much a group. Then again, our past readings talked about how ever more insolated we are becoming because of new technology we can customize to our lifestyles and wants.

    I’m definitely getting tired of beating this blogger versus journalist horse, but Rosen’s two pieces were interesting. What can we get from this debate? Maybe the answer is that I as a consumer have all the power to produce, and if I keep at it honestly, or at least in a way that’s perceived as honest, and without all the commercial brown nosing, it will all be worth my while in credability, which is what Rosen said.

    What will it mean for someone to call themselves a journalist in twenty years? It could mean any number of things, and I think I’ll be very interested in hearing about who considers themselves a journalist and how they practice it then. For now, I think I need some concrete example of bloggers as journalists having gone so terribly wrong and leading to the death of thousands to understand what people are so afraid of in the first place.

  11. 11 Stephen.keller February 24, 2009 at 2:37 am

    As much as it pains me to say, bloggers can be journalists…that is to say a select few bloggers are journalists. Blogs can provide new, insightful thoughts onto key issues, though most are just dribble.

    I agree with Christina, journalists either fear or resent blogs. I guess most of us just don’t understand the emergence of citizen journalism. Citizen and professional journalists can and must work together if both are to survive.

    Citizen journalism can help localize the news to a degree that professional outlets just can’t do. Democracy will always need professional journalists to keep an eye on some of the biggest issues and to hold our leaders responsible for their actions.

  12. 12 Scott Richert February 24, 2009 at 9:29 am

    I thought there might be a little more debate on this subject, but I guess I was wrong. I too feel that bloggers can be journalists under the right circumstances. Being a journalist is no longer the same thing as being a trained professional with a degree. Today the term journalist is a much broader umbrella that includes all people who have a passion for disseminating ACCURATE information to other people. I emphasize the word accurate, because even a pro who is not accurate to the full extent of his/her knowledge is not acting as a journalist.

    This definition, however, raises another interesting question in my mind though. Does this accurate information have to be important. This is where the real debate begins in my mind. If someone posts a story about how to bake bread correctly, is that journalism? Personally, I believe the key to journalism is good information with good intentions and good writing. All the other stuff about pros versus amateurs, and importance are merely peripheral.

  13. 13 Lauren Oakley February 24, 2009 at 9:40 am

    I believe that bloggers can be journalists. I think the argument is that anyone can start a blog and make posts, but does that make them a journalist? Depending upon the content. What we have to do is to educate society on the difference between a blog that is considered journalism, and one that is not.

    If a blog is merely a personal diary, this is obviously not journalism. There were two speakers in my first class this morning that are really relevant to this particular issue. Bill Minutaglio, expert, made the point that there is no way to stop blogging and citizen journalism. Anyone is capable of being a journalist with the technological innovations today, making publishing at your finger tips. A suggestion he had was that we should incorporate journalism into grade school education along side of subjects as history and English, so at a young age, people realize what the meaning and purpose of journalism is. In return, we won’t have as many phony blogs and such.

    Citizen journalism is a great way to localize the news… I agree with Stephen. For every one professional journalist, there are 20 citizen journalists that can get the story, photos, and interviews you need in a shorter amount of time. We just need to educate people on how to blog and how journalism is and it’s purpose in democracy.

  14. 14 Rachel February 24, 2009 at 10:28 am

    I too am down with the blogs. I think we should take the bad with the good. If a blog reports false information, it doesn’t take long for the audience/public to realize that and call that person out. And if you blog incorrect things, how long does it take for your audience to stop reading your blog. Not long at all. So with the bad, you can better appreciate the good, ie good bloggers and good news organizations. Now as others have said before, not all blogging is journalism, but I do think that news organizations can benefit from bloggers and should definitely incorporate blogging into their organizations.

    I agree with Jay Rosen that blogging and journalism exists on the internet in a symbiotic relationship, or that it should at least. People want to feel connected to their environment/neighborhood/peers/government officials/everyone. The internet makes this possible as Jon Lowder said in the Bloggers vs Journalists article. He feels more connected to the neighboring town’s community because of their web presence. They talk to him several times a day as his local paper only talks to him in the morning when it arrives. I think becoming a trusted news source is just the first step. Opening your news organization up to the public in the form of blogs and comments adds to that transparency that has been discussed. Journalism can only be as good as the people who trust in it. It is a sum of the parts and is only as good as it’s weakest link, and by becoming more transparent, you can strength your weakest link: the connection to the community. Alright, I’m going to step off the soapbox now. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, I think this time in journalism is exciting. We are seeing a huge transformation in journalism and the world around us, and I’m excited to be a part of it.

  15. 15 Sarah Lacy February 24, 2009 at 11:39 am

    A word that I kept seeing repeated over and over in each of these articles was “trust.” I think that Jay Rosen is dead on when he uses this word to analyze what Journalism really encompasses. We can discuss journalism in class, read editorials and blog posts about it, and analyze every aspect of the business, but the heart of the issue is “What are people out there actually reading?” The audience, or “people formerly known as the audience,” will not turn to something that they do not see as a trustworthy news source. This is good evidence to the credibility of blogs.

    If blogs had been unreliable, they would not have lasted as long as they have. Blogs might not be what we think of as traditional journalism, but journalism is becoming a more liquid term these days and the professional journalists need to realize that. They no longer control the media but must learn to share it. Rosen made a great point about pro’s loosing their sovereignty when it comes to news, politics, and public dialogue.

    As long as bloggers, even if only a few of them, keep up the good work and maintain the trust of their readers they will continue to be a part of our media landscape.

    I also think that the statement by A.J. Liebling, “Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one” is a great way to sum up what we are witnessing with blog use. Of course people are going to publish. The same thing happened with the printing press when it was new. But only the most trustworthy and relevant newspapers stood the test of time. The same will happen with blogs. They will continue to be a part of journalism.

  16. 16 oliviafong February 24, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    In the second article, Rosen says that the reason why blogs haven’t failed is because they adhere to some code of ethics. And while I agree that these things definitely do enhance the reader’s overall experience (meaning the content is relevant and easy to navigate, etc.), I don’t think that the absence of one or two of these things necessarily preclude it from being a good website for news. For example, a site can be useful even if it doesn’t have a blogroll or a super interactive feedback system. I personally believe that the reason why blogs have thrived has less to do with ethics (don’t get me wrong; I believe this is incredibly important!) than it has to do with the scope of news bloggers can cover. It’s a big world, people want to know every little thing about it, and the Average Joe Journalist simply cannot do it all.

    As for the question of whether a blog can legitimately claim that it is journalistic in nature, I would agree with my classmates who say that it really depends on the content. I believe that in order for a blog to be considered journalism, the news reported would have to impact a wide range of people (what I ate for lunch does not) and well-written, a quality that lots of people seem to have overlooked. Just like I can’t throw paint on a canvas and call it art, bloggers can’t simply call themselves journalist because they throw something up on the web.

    The last article about China was really interesting to me as well; I remember reading a lot about how even the foreign press had limited/censored access to information during last summer’s Olympics.

  17. 17 Michele Pierini February 24, 2009 at 11:56 pm

    Ok. I do think that bloggers are journalists.
    If someone is meticulously categorizing their massive shoe collection online, I say that’s journalism.
    If someone covers a string of murders in their area and posts police composite drawings to warn the public, I say that’s journalism as well.

    Just because it is fluff, doesn’t mean it is not journalism. I think that there has to be a considerable amount of craft in the writing and skill in which it is executed, but the content does not necessarily determine whether it is or is not considered journalism. I would even say that the chronicling of one’s life could be called journalism. Although it may not reach a significant audience, it still means something in its specific niche.

    If newspapers can feature comics and light material in its lifestyle section then blogs should still be respected even when discussing the follies of double decker biking.

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