My friend Dan Gillmor is writing a book about blogging and journalism and put out a call for comments. Here are my thoughts.
If blogging is to replace journalism, it has to do a better job than current journalists. Even journalists are now decrying the low quality of reporting. Of note: “CEOs describe business journalists as lacking a basic understanding of how businesses operate.” Now that’s pretty scary. If you cover something, shouldn’t you at least understand its basics? The main problem here is the way journalists are trained (and, as a journalism graduate, I went through it): we learn to gather facts and write quickly and efficiently (I know, I know, some people are going to complain about how wordy I’ve been getting lately) but most J-school students do not learn anything else. What should happen is that journalism schools should require that its student also have another major so they would develop field expertise in something else than just gathering facts and writing on deadline.
It seems that my bit of navel gazing about blogs has attracted a lot of attention. Among some of the things that came up, though, is that there is no clear agreement as to what blogs are. So in the search for definition, I went back to trying to figure out what people mean when they talk about weblogs and whether blogs are indeed journalism. If you take Dave Winer’s definition, you end with a definition that is much more limited than thinking of blogs as journalistic tools. Let’s examine the four basic tenet Winer presents as the basis for a blog: A weblog is personal: if that is truly the case, what does this mean for “community weblogs” like Slashdot and Metafilter ? Things they are not driven by a single person, can they truly be called weblogs? And what about the whole trend of companies setting up weblogs? Doesn’t that go against this concept? A weblog is on the Web: It’s pretty much a given (hence the weblog name). But so are web pages? What is the big difference between a Geocities personal page and a weblog? Is there any? Is it just the rate of updates? A…
So it looks like my thoughts (see below) made it on Metafilter and are starting to make their way on other blogs with interesting comments coming up in each cases. While I appreciate the accolades, what I find most interesting is that people are divided over whether blogging is journalism. It’s an interesting question and one for which I have my own personal answer: right now, for the most parts, it isn’t. But is there a kernel of truth to the possibility that it is? Some say it will never be. If that’s truly the case, why is it that the media is painting it as such? Is it because they do NOT understand the weblog phenomenon? Is it because they have been misinformed by people in the blogging community who believe that it is? And if it’s not, what is it? Has the “professional press” been swindled into buying a non-story? Something tells me that this is not quite the case. I do believe that somewhere, between where blogs are right now and where they could go, lies a grain of truth to the blog’s potential for being a new journalistic form. Let’s dissect the job of a journalist….