bloggers and journalists are not one

01/6/07 at 10:19 am | Posted in Tech | 2 Comments

Read an interesting post from Erwin Oliva on his Cyberbaguioboy blog, about the article he wrote for INQUIRER.net on the layoffs at the Philadelphia Inquirer (not the Philippine Daily Inquirer, OK, we might give the employees of our mother company a heart attack).

For some reason, I couldn’t post a comment on his blog, so I’ll just write my reply here.

Let me quote from Erwin’s post:

While some believe the country’s newspapers are quite in a “unique” situation, they all believe the new media – with the Internet and other info devices becoming ubiquitous, will change the way we do journalism. Bloggers have posed a “threat” to mainstream journalism. However, as we will find out soon, bloggers/journalists are becoming one. Journalism is also becoming multimedia.

Now, while I also believe that journalism is evolving by embracing New Media, I disagree with this statement that “bloggers/journalists are becoming one.”

As I’ve said many times, journalists and bloggers can learn a lot from each other. We can cooperate. We can even be journalists and blog at the same time, as obviously some of us are doing now. But that doesn’t mean bloggers and journalists are one. We don’t have to be the same. In fact, we may not want to be the same. I think we can recognize and celebrate what makes us different without having to reduce the discussion to a “bloggers vs journalists” debate.

In the first place, people blog for different reasons. It’s not like all bloggers want to cover the news, or share their opinion on the latest issues. Some want to blog to keep in touch with family and friends, some want to showcase their hobbies and other interests, some want to make people laugh, some want to rant, and some just want to goof off because they’re bored — and what’s wrong with all that? Blogs are powerful tools that allow people to express themselves, including many who have never been given a voice before — including by mainstream media. Blogs are tools. We’re free to use them as we wish.

Obviously, I appreciate how mainstream media is adapting blogs and other online tools to their needs in order to deliver the news — I’ve been a staunch advocate of that for years. But I also see the danger of conflating bloggers and journalists, of implying that we’re only valuing “serious blogging” and that other forms are frivolous. It’s good that we now see more and more journalists, politicians, academicians and other “serious people” blogging, but let’s not make the mistake of thinking that others should have the same values as us. In the same manner, not all bloggers would understand the way the newsroom works, or would be willing to subject themselves to the same rules as journalists. And that’s fine. We can use the same tools, but we don’t have to be the same.

Which brings us to another point on blogging as a medium — as it becomes more mainstream, it’s becoming a commodity, a utility. Think about the Web — back then, it was already a big deal for you to have a website. That was already cutting edge in and of itself. This was even more obvious with some companies who sought an online presence in those early days — it was enough to just upload your page, never mind that the content was awful.

In the not-too-distant future, everyone will blog. Just having a blog won’t make you special. Again, it goes back to what you do with it. It’s a cliche, but content is king. And when you have a world where everyone is blogging, does that mean all of them are journalists? Or that they would even want to be journalists?

I think the interesting thing we’ll see over the next few years is how the values of old institutions will collide with the realities of New Media and New New Media. I’m not saying that we should throw away all our old values; I’m just saying we shouldn’t be blinded by our own prejudices.

Right now, we’re seeing two kinds of responses. One response is apparently Old Media thinking, “Hey, I have these popular columnists or newscasters. I’m sure they’ll also be a hit as bloggers.”

The other is Old Media taking in more bloggers so as to attract new readers, the idea presumably being that the blogger will know what the new audience wants, and that he or she will bring along loyal readers of his or her site, who otherwise might never have been interested in the publication.

It will be interesting to see how this situation will play out, and I really don’t see just one approach proving to be the right way to go. They might be stopgap measures, but they won’t amount to much unless a publication reinvents itself for the Web. Still, I’d like to see media owners actually realizing when their old stars are not the ones best suited for the online world. For instance, your celebrity may wow people on noontime shows, but your readers on the Web may care more about talented, ordinary people whom YouTube has made stars. Or that the way you deliver the news on TV (and some of these newscasters are still influenced by the way it’s done on radio) may not be the right way to do it on the Web. (On that note, I really miss Amanda Congdon on Rocketboom, sigh.)

Let’s respect the Web for what it is, instead of seeing it as a mere extension of Old Media and the old value makers. We live in one world, but it’s a world of many beautiful colors.

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2 Comments »

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  1. thanks Joey for the comment. I think what I meant by being “one” is that journalists are now blogging too. But I agree with you that there are clashing values, which has become a dilemma for some journalists now being hired to blog. I think even bloggers themselves don’t want to be called “journalists” or what they’re doing journalism because they’re now expected to do their homework. Anyway, thanks for reading, and I think such discussions make our practice a lot more interesting.

  2. […] out soon, bloggers/journalists are becoming “one.” (a note in reaction to Joey’s quick reply to this blog post: I think I meant that journalists will eventually be blogging. But I do agree with him that […]


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