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Blogs vs journalism | Participatory journalist | A symbiotic relationship | Societal benefits | The journalist-blogger | 

Blogs vs journalism

Blogs impact both society and journalism.

For one, commentary and journalism blend in the world of blogs, otherwise known as weblogs. For example, a blogger filters and edits information found on the Web, which is similar to a reporter who filters and edits information when reporting.

Journalists gather for a  European Council meeting.  Journalists must face editors, while bloggers do not.  Photo by Pertti Itkonen.  Image via University of Turku, Finland.

However, a blogger may go the extra step and analyze and comment on the information, while a reporter is supposed to stay neutral and objective. It seems bloggers and newspaper columnists have more in common than bloggers and reporters, and many bloggers consider themselves columnists.

Thus, in mass media, reporters and editors are gatekeepers, but bloggers answer only to themselves. 2

Mass media and blogs are different because mass media needs advertising to survive mass media and, like any other industry, needs profits to survive. Bloggers do not need advertising to survive, only free blogging software and their motivation to keep blogging. 8

Participatory journalists

Bloggers can be likened to participatory journalists. A blog is an easily accessible platform written by average people in society, not the elite mass media. Thus, opportunity for dissent and alternative viewpoints flourishes in blogs. 2

Also, bloggers offer context that reporters sometimes cannot offer. 2 That is, the 24-hour news cycle and public expectancy of immediate coverage pressures reporters to accept information without analyzing it, which leads to little and lackluster investigative reporting.

The context blogs bring, some bloggers argue, fills the void the mass media left wide open by only providing the opinions of politicians and the powerful special interests backing them.

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Symbiotic relationship

No matter if you think bloggers are journalists, participatory journalists or not journalists at all, bloggers and journalists need each other. A symbiotic relationship exists.

Bloggers rely on mass media and journalists to cover faraway events that bloggers want to comment on and analyze. Mass media and journalists rely on bloggers to add colorful commentary and link to their Web sites. For mass media, it is almost like free advertising when bloggers link to them. 8

Trent Lott resigned as U.S. Senate majority leader after being accused of making a racist comment at Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party.  Image via BBC News.

Mass media also get story ideas from blogs. For example, the Trend Lott comment at Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party that caused his resignation as Senate majority leader was minimally covered by the mass media on ABCNews.com. But bloggers like Instapundit and Talking Points Memo kept a spotlight on the comment until the mass media noticed. 12

However, most bloggers do not want or intend to replace mass media and professional journalism. Rather, blogs complement mass media - providing a democratic form of journalism and focusing on specific topics rather than mass audiences. 8

Societal benefits

Blogs also impact society by promoting media literacy and writing skills. Both bloggers and blog surfers will become more aware and critical of the bloggers' media sources. 2

Indy Media logo.  Image via Indy Media.

For example, a blogger might link to an article on Indy Media, an alternative online news source. The blog surfer may visit the Indy Media Web site and decide to discount any information from Indy Media. On the other hand, the blog surfer may find the Indy Media information truthful and visit their Web site again.

The significance is that both the blogger and blog surfer make their own decisions on each links' accuracy as a reliable source.

Additionally, blogs sharpen one's writing skills. They are designed for brevity, so the blogger must decide how to relay important information in a concise format. Also, the blog surfer learns how to write concisely by frequenting blogs. 2

The journalist-blogger

A dilemma arises when journalists become bloggers. Should a journalist maintain an independent, personal blog while also reporting and being paid by a media company?

Kevin Sites blogs in Iraq as a freelance writer working for MSNBC.  However, his blog is unaffiliated with MSNBC.  Image via Kevin Sites blog.

In the case of former CNN reporter Kevin Sites, who kept a blog while reporting from Iraq before the 2003 Iraq war, CNN claimed any information Sites gathered, even personal experience, was property of CNN. Sites' blog closed as the war began. 14 However, in October 2003, his site reopened. Sites is freelancing and on assignment in Iraq for MSNBC, but his blog is unaffiliated with MSNBC. 13

Some critics claim the mass media does not want its monopoly on news and viewpoints squashed. Others say the mass media would be accused of bias reporting if the public discovered a journalist kept a blog. 7

Whichever side wins the battle, society, journalism and blogs will continue to interact and create a new media atmosphere online.

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