For the odd moments I can manage to think of something.

Bloggers, journalists (and not versus)

Similar but different

Similar but different

This is not and will never be the complete picture but it is a round up of thoughts at the moment on bloggers and journalists.

I like working with bloggers. I do so daily in many ways. I am a journalist, I work in mainstream media for a living. One of my concerns is about the relationship between the two sets. (I know that this is a simplistic divide but appreciate those who can bear with me for a moment on these broad strokes.)

I’ve watched and participated in the development of blogging and journalism over the last few years. There seems there may always be a few in each group who will divide the two in negative proportions. The “them and us” argument annoys me though. I am not an excellent blogger – but I could name twenty without really thinking and about the same when it comes to journalists. No, we are not the same. Even those who straddle the to positions have a strength in one over the other usually.

So, journalists are not bloggers are not journalists. In many ways I envy the freedom a blogger has, it’s something that I do not get to indulge in too often or fully. But there are bloggers who really deserve a profile as high as any popular newspaper columnist but they do not see the sort of syndication that brings this recognition. There are positive and negative points to both roles and reams of talent and unwarranted glory in both areas.

However, the segregation of “them and us” seems like a pretty negative divide. I’ve heard it used one way to describe mainstream media as predatory and aloof and flipped over to condemn bloggers as ill-informed and badly written. Throwing insult doesn’t really get us anywhere. All too often, the web being a place where people can let you know very directly whether or not you are hitting the mark, the cream can rise to the top – or is that just notoriety?

I guess I am somewhat optimistic when I look at the way that bloggers and journalists could work together. I’m not saying they have to – but there’s some great work that can be done when we do. Journalists speaking the language of web-natives works for a start. There are many who could benefit from the odd hyperlink and track back. The transparency of links in writing online shows your working out (to use a math exam term) and that you have some respect for the source you are working with. It also provides a way for readers to decide for themselves the areas of your writing they want to pursue further – in other words – added value.

Another area that makes me foam with rage is not asking permission for material. I cannot remember the amount of times that I have been appalled to see pictures, quotes, tracts of writing taken from blogs. This comment might seem a little late in the day, but it does happen and I cannot see why any writer worth their salt would approve of plagiarism over original work. The lines between creative commons and copyright for online material seem somewhat confusing to some and the fluctuations around sharing and pilfering are going to be with us for time to come. On the other side of that picture, making your blog out of the writing of published journalists without context or even a reason for using it other than boosting your site – isn’t that a bit lame? Syndication without permission, payment or reason? The bloggers I know who constantly amaze me are worth a lot more than cut and paste press clippings and their writing more valuable and thoughtful.

I think linking and respect when writing any piece of journalism or blogging is paramount. Otherwise how can you really obtain trust and a fair reputation for your output?

The idea that bloggers are just waiting to be journalists and journos think they are better than bloggers should really become something of the past. I know that the people I am referencing online in this piece might be reading it and thinking “Well duh!” But I guess I’ve popped it up here for the one or two who might cruise past and think again about the value of what they create online.

Or tear me to shreds because I have skipped over finer points to the discussion with my big fat house painting brush. Tell me why I am wrong…

6 Responses to “Bloggers, journalists (and not versus)”

  1. Article Dan

    Nicely written and considered as ever.

    I was at the Thinking Digital conference last week and something that (I think) Dan Lyons said was – ‘if Newspapers and ‘journalism’ go – what will all the bloggers link to?’ (Very loose quotation.) Which is much of what you touch upon here. There is a symbiosis; at first and perhaps still rather one-sided towards bloggers taking cues from newspapers, but more and more there is a feed back into the mainstream from the bloggers who scoop and write unique (niche?) content worthy of reporting in itself. Undeniably the door swings both ways.

    So what would journalists be more comfortable with as a model? Or as a description of the model that has evolved? I realise there are bloggers that break stories, investigate etc. but the many actually read an already presented story, then add their wisdom – editorialise and comment – link to wider, relevant, interesting content of concern.

    Point of order – the ‘story’ is always out there. Like the uncarved block. It needs discovering, but no one ‘owns’ a story any more than a prospector ‘owns’ the gold they find. The recent Telegraph scoopage and sensationalisation of MPs expenses was an existing tale – the Telegraph were merely first to present it (or rather the ones who PAID most / earliest for info that would have been public domain later in the year anyway). Everyone else has reported the revelations since – bloggers and journos alike.

    I see Journalists as frontiersmen and prospectors on the landscape of occurring history – first to the story, informing the media railroads of pathways and watering holes ahead – living and dying on the discovery, harder than most by necessity (an yes, a little ornery); bloggers are the ‘civilisation’ that follow: from the inventors and creators who exploit and create new materials from discovery, to the saloons that specialise in discussion and debate, right down to the snake-oil salesmen out to swindle a buck; all humanity and commerce is represented in the blog-o-sphere. And I think that’s wonderful.

    All a hideously stretched analogy just to say I agree 🙂

    • jemimahknight

      I like the link back quote – quite so in many cases.

      I think the type of story changes the focus on what you have said about journalists as story breakers. Many times I expect bloggers and micobloggers to be on the case first. They can fly often without verification processes that trad journos have to adhere to.

      I guess it just depends, witnesses and breaking news is often the frontier of the mobile blogger, but investigative material can often be the realm of a mainstream journalist with access to different contacts.

      Generally a door that swings both ways or indeed a porous news media appears to be becoming more commonplace.

  2. Steve Lawson

    Very nicely put, J. As a journo-turned-blogger, I can certainly see the tangible advantages and disadvantages of each – the profile and quality-bar of print journalism vs. the mobility and immediacy of the web… But ultimately, your examples of quality in each are key – it’s not the medium, it’s the practitioner. I know people who abuse their position as print journos, and I know bloggers who are unreadably bad. I know print magazines with appalling editorial standards and bloggers who are fastidious… But like you, I can list people on each side you understand their medium, it’s advantages and associated responsibilities, and who produce amazing writing/radio/TV/reportage/comment etc. etc. that enriches my life.

    So here’s to blogging, and here’s to the old school. Long may they swap ideas x

    • jemimahknight

      Exactly. Symbiotic, quality content. I prefer a rich mix of the two, with options to follow links as I feel.

  3. Jess

    The problems I see normally occur because of journalists erm… forgetting… the basics of our profession, such as: quote accurately, don’t plagurise.

    • jemimahknight

      Hi Jess,
      I think that can happen on both sides of the equation, but I also think that my expectations are higher for journalists to get things right.
      Makes me wonder if in the past when people were not self publishing if inaccurate quotes were more common, but there was no way of printing otherwise.

      I’ve seen bloggers mis-quote, recontextualise and plagiarise heavily, but not being in the same spotlight, it can be tricky making this right.

      All round I certainly agree that both pursuits would ideally be followed in a way that would promote original work and accuracy. (…okay, back to optimisticville with me)


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