A Blog on Blogging

Once again we have been informed of how blogging, a quirky sort of journalism, is the new kid on the media block. As Jody Raynsford said:

They are opinionated, ranting, often incoherent and frequently biased with little regard for accuracy or balance. They are also compellingly addictive and threatening to emerge as a new brand of journalism.”

I am under no illusions that some people would much rather read a personalized and conversational piece of writing than the detailed and structured article produced by a journalist clinging to the fundamental rule of telling the story, rather than worrying about if it is exciting for the reader.

Blogging certainly possesses dynamic quality as a result of the lack of agenda, no editorial stance and no pedantic editor standing between the writer and reader. Blogging provides reportage in a raw and exciting form with its alternative perspectives and first hand experiences providing for greater interaction between reader and writer.

Its importance is shown in the role it played in the downfall of Trent Lott as Senate majority leader. The mainstream media might have missed Lott’s remarks at Sen. Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday party, but outrage in the ever-growing “blogosphere” fanned the flames until newspapers took up the story.

Yes, a blogger and a reporter are essentially doing the same task…informing the public of what is going on. Yet in some ways they are so fundamentally different. Whereas professional journalists are hindered by normal journalistic standards of objectivity, balance and accuracy, a bloggers work is raw, subjective and honest. A journalist has to be politically impartial. He or she has to remain detached from his subject area and report in a very stiff manner. He has to effectively say to the reader, “Look, I’m not allowed to give you my opinion, but here are the facts, here are the WHOs the WHYs the WHEREs, the WHENs and the HOWs.

In fact, US Journalist Steve Olafson, lost his job for being too personal when he criticised local politicians.

Yet the blogger can become personally involved. They report emotion and opinion and in some circumstances this is what readers crave. A journalist can sit at his desk and type about the “tragedy” of 9/11, whereas a blogger can throw out the rules of objectivity and be honest in saying how disgraceful and inhumane it was.

I mention 9/11 because it is often seen as the birth of the blog. When news of the event was released, people were so desperate for information and instant blogging provided just that. As Dan Gillmor, director of the Center for Citizen Media,said: “The chaos was a galvanizing point for the blogging world. I remembered that old cliche that journalists write the first rough draft of history. Well now bloggers were writing the first draft.”

Over seven years later, the outpouring of emotion and information which occurred through that event set the precedent for what was to become a media revolution.

Social media consultant Matthew Yeomans said: “Back in 2001, blogs were still very much the geek toy of the Slashdot set. This collective tragedy demanded a forum to be shared by people all around the world who wanted to talk about what happened with anyone because it was the only way of making any sense of it. Were it to happen again, blogs and social networks would play an enormously cathartic role.”

Journalists must get used to this power shift. The audience is no longer simply an audience. They possess the ability to become the journalist. Journalists are no longer the bosses and their written word is no longer the law. Bloggers and journalists now exist in the same media space.

In 2003, Mike Smartt, editor of BBC News Online, said: ” They are an interesting phenomenon, but I don’t think they will be as talked about in a year’s time.2

This blog, posted five years later, proves just how very wrong he was…

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