Today I witnessed a most distressing confrontation between people who write for newspapers and people who keep blogs. During the first session of Ronewmedia, the theme was "Journalists vs Bloggers" and some of the face value opinions that were expressed there included:
- bloggers are most definitely not journalists - from a journalist who keeps a blog
- journalists have a standard of behaviour and a code of ethics and bloggers do not - idem
- bloggers are better informed and more objective than journalists - from a blogger
- journalists steal material and do no quote sources - from a blogger
In spite of, or maybe because of, the obviously biased moderation the conversation spiraled into what to me sounded like the most absurd line of thinking possible: "bloggers cannot be reliable sources of information because unlike journalists, who are trained to be journalists and not mere pen-pushers, they have no ethics and no standards".
This is not the first time I have seen people coming from offline newspaper-work placing themselves into a category superior to anyone involved in writing, under the "badge" of journalism. This is also not the first time I have heard bloggers calling themselves journalists. And most importantly this is the umpteenth time people speak of blogging as a non-ethical and non-standard form of expression (you should watch State of Play for some decent insights into how to join blogging and newspaper writing)
Interestingly enough I find both positions essentially wrong for the following reasons:
- bloggers are NOT meant to be journalists - what, then, would be the difference between journalists online and bloggers? For me, blogging is more like editorializing because the power of a blog does not rest in its ability to break news, but rather to interpret it in a fresh new way and to shed a different light on existing information. There is practically no way bloggers can beat newspapermen, except on the technology beat where information is generally taken from online sources. But, in practice, information needs a lot of interaction and a lot of people checking out a lot of sources: this, a blogger with 10 h of writing per day required, cannnot do but the staff of a newspaper can.
- journalists and bloggers do have standards but they are different because of the essentially different motivations of the two. Journalists are held by their paycheck and their job description to objectively inform the public of facts. This kind of rules apply to them. Bloggers are opinion-makers and they are only held to being truthful to what they know and what they believe to be the case. Opinions need to be of "facts", but they can be biased. You need to check the facts you comment on but not apply the same rigor to your editorial because it is YOUR TAKE on the facts.
That aside, both bloggers and journalists are held by obligations of morality, decency and common sense. Both, as you all know, sometimes don't bother with these, as witnessed by some bloggers' silly, misogynistic articles about PR ladies and by almost all articles in CanCan :-)
- it is ridiculous to state that journalists are not better than bloggers because they are a profession and bloggers are not. There is no evidence that writing for print as opposed to online makes you a better writer, nor a more just one, nor a more objective one.
One excellent point that Calin Fusu made involved "the financial dimenssion" but about that later, I need to go use that bike I just bought.
communication is essential to business making and it involves more than the ability to name your product, write a tag line or a press release. It's an intricate, rational and scalable effort and, let's face it, not anyone can do it.