Monday, January 10, 2005

Richard Koman asks "Are Blogs the New Journalism" -- I'm not so sure

Are Blogs the New Journalism, a nice roundup of the evidence in favor of blogs being the new journalism. On Richard's blog, I posted a comment disagreeing with this idea.

Don't get me wrong. I'm completely on the citizen reporting train. It's just that I think there is a difference between reporting and journalism. And that difference is an editorial one. I think there are ways to provide for a community editorial stance -- both DailyKos and Slashdot do this. However, blogs alone do not. In many ways, I think of blogs as the raw source material but it needs shaping.

The problem, from my admittedly consumer perspective (I have very little journalism training -- a few college classes and a stint on various newspapers, college, high school, and free), is that journalists aren't doing any shaping of the raw materials. They are simply reporting it in a very "this happened and then this" perspective. Joan Didion provided what I thought of as a compelling argument in Political Fictions. Basically, it told about journalisms merely reporting what people were saying and not questioning it or comparing it to past statements. It's this juxtaposition of various bits of information that is a part of the editorial function, it seems to me.

Josh Marshall is doing it on Talking Points Memo. But TPM isn't, by anyone standards, an average blog.

Certainly, blogs can and should be integrated into a communities online presence, whether that's spearheaded by a newspaper or by some other community entity. But blogs reportage, no matter how good, can't serve as journalism all by itself.

Rather than citizen journalism, I like the idea of "community journalism." That's what both DailyKos and Slashdot exploit to great effect. The new Digital Divide Network certainly has this possibility. This gets at the community editorial stance I mentioned above. It's a way for people to elevate stories, writers, writing, news bits, images, videos, or audio to a prominent place within a community of information. It's easy enough, on my weblog -- one writer -- to say something is worthy of the front page. I can (and do) use services like technorati, pub sub, and feedster to determine votes via links. On a community site, though, only maybe one or two of my entries would have been worth front page status.

That filter is good for the users. It's helps them to sort through what is, hopefully, a positive plethora of reportage and get to the journalism. It also helps to solidify comments and provide the community with a common language of issues -- one of the functions of a newspaper, it seems to me.

So, what does all this have to do with nonprofits? I think that by exploiting weblogs, RSS and other community tools, nonprofits can start providing a greater amount of reportage. And this, providing the source materials, can help to advance their causes in ways that I can only guess at right now.

Bonus link: Blogs of War: this San Francisco Chronicle article talks about the information that soldiers are sending out about the war in Iraq.

(in: blogs, citizen_reporters, community_journalism), things_about_which_I_should_not_spout_off)