A Lesson in Blogs
February 16th, 2009
Posted by Danny Allen
Hereâ€™s an important lesson in Web 2.0: Bloggers are not journalists.
At least this blogger isn’t a journalist. I’m a guy who works in marketing and posts something on a blog every once in a while. I have no editor, no fact checkers, and no policies of any sort (my wife corrects my grammar sometimes). A few weeks ago I posted something I had heard from a reliable source. Turns out the source didn’t know the whole story and I made a couple of logical leaps in the wrong direction. By the time someone with all of the facts came around, my version had gotten out into the press. What I wrote wasn’t false or in any way malicious, I just didn’t have the whole story. What’s more, I didn’t have any responsibility to go looking for sources to verify my facts. I’m no journalist, I’m just a guy who works in marketing and has a blog.
George Parker is a marketing guy. He also has a blog. It has a lot of what might be considered unprofessional language in it and also reprints rumors about the advertising industry. He gets a pretty good amount of traffic and has semi-reliable informers. He’s also not a journalist, but he gets a lot of traffic so he may be a “blogger.”
Silicon Alley Insider is one of my favorite blogs. They have several writers and are part of a larger company that owns several blogs. They have editors and paid advertisers. They sometimes post industry rumors and often break out with opinions. They also do things like post little throwaway items that seem designed to just increase pageviews and therefore revenues (again, my opinion). So SAI is a business and it’s writers are definitely bloggers. However, it isn’t a newspaper and I would hesitate to call those guys journalists. Bloggers and writers â€“ yes. Journalists â€“ no.
The New York Times is a “newspaper of record.” It has editors and policies and fact checkers.* Everything it prints is reviewed and revised and fact-checked. It actually prints things (as opposed to just posting) because there is a print edition of the newspaper, for better or for worse. The people who work for the NYTimes are professional, trained journalists.
During his first presidential press conference, President Obama took a question from Sam Stein. Mr. Stein works for the Huffington Post, which is a blog. HP is one of the most popular blogs on the Internet. It has a lot of very smart people writing for it (as does SAI), and lots of paid writers and original content. It has editors. However, it is not on the same level as the New York Times or Washington Post. At least not yet. It seems to sit somewhere between the New York Times and Silicon Alley Insider.
As blogs accumulate writers and editors and advertisers and credibility, they begin to look more like newspapers. As newspapers add interactive features and video and comments, and cut back on their print editions, they begin to resemble blogs. Although the NYTimes and Washington Post and Wall Street Journal have been around for years and are considered newspapers “of record,” the line indicating whether they are more reliable or have better content is blurring. As more people get their news and information online, this line will become more blurry. Even President Obama can see this.
In a world where anyone with a computer has a voice (and a blog), it is important that we as consumers of news and information understand who it is we’re reading and how reliable, and worthwhile, the content is. By the same token, magazines, newspapers, blogs, and other sources of information will have to prove their reliability and credibility over time. As much as writers have a responsibility to be credible and get their facts straight, readers have a responsibility to understand what their source is and in what context any information comes from.
* Jayson Blair notwithstanding
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