I guess I’m lucky in the friends I make. Actually, I know I’m lucky in the friends I make. It turns out, I’ve yet again been fortunate in that I’ve connected to a few of my fellow bloggers and once such blogger is my friend Kenneth. You can catch him at his site, The Culture Monk. He has also been making plenty of friends and among them is this young lady named Kylie. The two of them are on this wonderful adventure of doing a podcast show and for some ridiculous reason, they invited me onto their show.
I have no clue if anything I said is of value and I can’t get over how deep my voice sounds. I for some reason ended up speaking in a deeper register than normal for me. I hope this isn’t a sign of possession (ha!). Anyway, if you’re interested in hearing the podcast, you can catch it here.
It was fun getting to talk about my job but there was a question posed to me and I didn’t have a full opportunity to discuss it so I want to take that chance here. I think it’s one that’s pertinent to my blog, to what I do and many people are thinking the same thing. I had been asked a very similar question just days prior to the recording of the podcast, so I had a little time to think about my answer, though I didn’t do myself, or my chosen profession, any justice.
The question is (was) do I think that blogging is helping or hurting journalism? To be perfectly honest, I think blogging will help journalism, but certainly not immediately. There are definitely pros and cons to blogging, particularly being as a medium in the grand scheme of journalism. The pros include all the virtually free access to information and being able to spread it so quickly and frequently. The cons include so many people write with a bias and definitely out of their own interests. In of itself, that’s not bad but if it’s to be journalistic, writers need to leave the opinions out and let readers decide for themselves.
Having so many more readers online forces journalists to have to be better. Readers can go just about anywhere for information now, so you have to be more interesting, get to your point faster and now, there is higher demand for that information to cover more ground so as to be less biased. Not an easy task particularly on tough topics that are difficult to understand in print – online or otherwise. In that situation, that’s where video and supplementary information is good and why blogging can be a useful tool to journalism. Photos, video and generally using multimedia not only keeps one’s attention more but can help make tough material easier for those who may not have all the background. It’s always a fairly quick way to fill in any readers who haven’t read past articles on a topic.
That leads me to the other way blogging can be useful and will help journalism in the long run. News sources like CNN have already employed this tactic but I agree with my editor that it will be used more. That tactic is to start with a very basic story. Let’s say something like 9/11. There was only so much information that could be used for the initial stories but as the day continues and more is known about what happens, that information can be added to stories.
CNN (I’m only using them as an example because I’ve seen them do this) starts with a story and basically starts a timeline. They put a date and time next to the newest/latest information and it keeps building. This helps readers know what’s happening as it happens. This also means they don’t have to read lengthy articles and it’s easier to digest what’s being said to them. Part of why there are biases in stories is that journalists need to keep stories short – part of that is cost of print for printed journals, but it’s also because readers will quit reading after so many paragraphs. Stories have to remain interesting or people won’t read them. If stories can be told in soundbites, it may help keep the interest up but it also means being able to provide more information, making it a bit less biased whereas one story in one chunk may have to leave out important information because it may never be read if it’s not presented just the way readers want it to be and let’s face it, everyone reads differently.
All of that said, I don’t think blogging is where it needs to be yet for it to be totally relied on as a journalistic source. There are still many writers/bloggers who take too pointed of stances and don’t let readers decide for themselves. I have encountered at least a few bloggers who see themselves as freelance journalists but these folks are not taking the steps necessary to be unbiased either in their approach to writing or interviewing (if they even interview anyone). The only other hangup I see with blogging as a journalistic source is that it’s likely to reinforce people’s already existing ideas. Truth is, that’s part of what happens now. People will read what tends to compliment their way of thinking. The only reason this may be helped because of blogging is that there are so many out there that it’s hard to avoid encountering information that may otherwise be intentionally overlooked.
Anyway, those are just a few of my thoughts on the matter. I may be wrong. I may be right (or is it write?) but we’ll see how things pan out in the near future. I do want to be clear that I love blogging. I know I’ve stepped a way for a bit but it is an awesome community and I’ve learned a lot from this group so there is nothing said here that is designed to disrespect, denigrate or belittle bloggers.