With millions of bloggers throwing their thoughts, observations and commentary out into the ether, the term “journalist” has begun to return to its root word of “journal.” Anyone with internet access can voice their opinion, which means that the wall between trained professional journalists and bloggers, which some call “citizen journalists,” has been broken down. But the informal atmosphere of a blog has also encouraged poor writing and bloggers tend to ignore the conventions that has made other published material into authoritative and influential sources.
Steve Outing, the former senior editor at the Poynter Institute, posted a set of articles in late December on the ways that journalists and bloggers can learn from each other. He argued that journalists and bloggers have nothing to fear from each other and that both can benefit from learning the methods of the other.
Bloggers, he said, tend to be more transparent and make corrections more quickly and place them more prominently than newspaper journalists are willing or able to do. Bloggers are also more willing to admit their personal biases. While the mainstream media pursue the unattainable goal of objectivity, bloggers proudly announce their bias and feel freer to focus on what they believe to be the most important part of a new story instead of spending time on a minority opinion or one that they disagree with.
However, bloggers also need to realize that journalistic values like editing, reporting, ethics, and accuracy make for a better blog. The ones who take their work seriously and professionally are rewarded with a larger audience who respects their opinions. The vast majority who don’t take their work seriously are in turn not taken seriously and will never advance to the point of notoriety.
In all, we must understand that blogging is a new medium. Just as cassette recorders can be used to film idiotic backyard fighting or sophomoric home music videos, they can also be used to create sophisticated, low-budget works of art. Those who take the medium seriously will rise to the top and those who dabble will only amuse themselves. No real harm to established journalistic practice is likely to come from blogging, with the very real advantage that journalism just may become more interactive and dynamic as reporters learn that readers want more personality in their news.