Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Nature of Blogging

There's been a lot of discussion lately about the relationship between journalism and blogging. Media Works has an article by Simon Dumenco about blogging. Here's an excerpt:
...it occurred to me that there is no such thing as blogging. There is no such thing as a blogger. Blogging is just writing -- writing using a particularly efficient type of publishing technology. Even though I tend to first use Microsoft Word on the way to being published, I am not, say, a Worder or Wordder.

It’s just software, people! The underlying creative/media function remains exactly the same.

OK, you might argue, blogging is aesthetically a different beast -- it’s instantaneous media. (Well, since the dawn of the 24-hour news cycle, pretty much all media has had to learn how to be instantaneous.) It’s unpolished. (The best blogs I read are as sophisticated as anything old-school media publishes.) It’s voice-y. (The best old-school media I read tends to be voice-y.) It’s about opinion, not reporting. (The best reporting to come out of MacWorld in San Francisco last week was published on blogs.) It’s, well, often sloppy and reckless (and Judy Miller wasn’t?).

OK, then, you might further argue, the Internet itself treats blogs as structurally distinct things. Well, sure, there are blog-specific search engines (Technorati, Icerocket, blogsearch.google.com, etc.), but the lines between blog and non-blog content are rapidly dissolving.

There are things in this article I agree with and don't agree with but it is a place to start a kind of conversation. In the next week or two, I hope to do a post on what I use blogs for.

I suppose a quick word on what I do here is in order. I'm not a reporter. I simply think of myself as a writer, certainly an activist and possibly a kind of journalist if writing reasonably informed opinions qualifies.

A reporter does interviews, followups, witnesses events, has connections, data files, a knowledge of research, and chases down facts. The only thing on the list I do regularly is chase down facts; it's an annoying habit of mine but I do it well enough that occassionally a fact I uncover gets sent off to some professional journalist who finds it useful enough to put it in a story or column after confirming the fact. Some day I'll say more on this as well.

One last word on blogging though. There's a side of blogging that can be useful as an extension of journalism. But the more powerful possibility is the potential for informed citizens to have their voices heard. And that, more than anything else, is the single reason blogs have exploded on the internet into the broader world. In a democratic society, if we still are one, it is a welcome and evolving development.

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