Thursday, November 11, 2004

Typing, not journalism

I don't know about fellow bloggers but I can't say that I have ever imagined myself as a journalist. (Except when I was in primary school and I conned my parents into helping me put together a photostatted 'newspaper' called the 'Hotline Herald'). Eric Engberg, a retired CBS journo has written an article claiming that bloggers like to think they break the news and that they are taking the place, or at least are a small threat to, traditional media. He believes they are having themselves on. As Truman Capote said of Kerouac's On the Road, "That's not writing, that's typing!". Engberg believes much the same about bloggers. He cites the fact that early blog callers of the US election got it so wrong in interpreting the exit polls as an example that they just spew out stuff with no real 'craft' or 'discipline'. (Hang on, he may have a point there).

I have to agree that bloggers can't really compete with journalism. We just don't have the infrastructure or resources. I have to kind of half-agree with his feeling that all bloggers care about is hits and notoriety:
This is the kind of stuff we used to run in my aforementioned school paper, when the speculation surrounded who was going steady. The difference is that the bloggers aspire to being a force in our public life and claim to be at the forefront of a new political-media era. It was clear to me, from following their efforts that night, that, unlike journalists, some blog operators who are quick to trash the MSM not only don’t care about the veracity of the stories they are spreading, they do not understand when there is a live hand grenade on their keyboard. They appear not to care. Their concern is for controversy and "hits."

I have to make the clarification that I don't think is ALL bloggers care about.

Anyway, his article got me doing some naval-gazing and wondering why the hell I blog. I have started three group blogs and with all of them I have ended up being almost the sole contributor. I have to wonder then, why do I find it so enjoyable when my fellow bloggers have fallen by the way-side? Some may say it is because I work at a university and have more time than others...whatever.

I blog perhaps because I am a frustrated 'writer' and I see blogging as like doing laps of the pool - you do it to get fit for the big game, not as an end in itself. I do think blogs have their place in terms of knowledge sharing in workplaces and discussion in the general public arena though. It allows people who are frustrated letters-to-the-editor writers to finally have their say and not worry about pesky editors rejecting their work. It allows political brawls to come out in the open and for those with self-sufficiency and creativity to actually get their work out there.

Anyway, I don't think blogs are going to take the place of 'serious' journalism I'm not putting any money on the likes of Bolt, Devine x 2, Ackerman et al though. I think I have seen a s*&^load of blogs that add more to the world in terms of intelligent discussion than those typists.


mark bahnisch said...

Georg, there's an interesting take on why we might blog at Troppo>.

weezil said...

I'm certainly a skeptic of blogging as a new force in media. Had something to say about it a couple of weeks ago.

Pls see

'Swimming laps'- good analogy.

The way political news is reported was completely changed by Reagan and his PR machine, beginning in 1980. Information was metered out of the White House to friendly journos and press conferences were restructured such that there were no more crowd of newsies barking "Mr President, Mr President" but rather an orderly room full of seated journos being called upon by the president or press secretary.

I took a BA in Radio & TV Journalism in 1984 (Butler Univ, Indianapolis). When in uni, we all rather thought that this new style of highly controlled reporting was momentary and that things would go back to normal once Reagan was gone. Were we ever wrong.However, the good thing about the time I was in uni is that I was educated in the now very old style of the art.

Journalists since then have been subject to sucking up to pollies; can't ask the hard questions, can give your news op the reputation of being hard on the prez, or you'll never get into another press conference. I can certainly see the temptation to use blogging as reporting unfettered by editorial constraint, but it's that contraint that makes news reporting different to back fence gossip.

Blogs can be anything from pet diaries and recipe files to hack job character assasinations to full-on proper political exposés. Telling the difference is critical. Pleased to say that at least the local blogosphere has got a pretty good news nose- especially around Psephite.


MelbLefty said...

I blog perhaps because I am a frustrated 'writer' and I see blogging as like doing laps of the pool - you do it to get fit for the big game, not as an end in itself.Couldn't have put it better! One very strong motivation for blogging indeed.

Anonymous said...


I worked in metro newspaper journalism for about 13 years and had a pretty fair exposure to radio and TV journalism, too.

Many of the sins of the MSM are precisely because some journalists pre-judge a story, skew it to make it more sensational, try to get a better run by victimising someone who can't defend himself/herself, or are just plain badly educated, ill-informed, lazy and ignorant. In many cases its about by-lines and page leads - in short, pathetic egos.

On the other hand, there are a handful of journalists who are examples of excellence and the great bulk of journalists who are simply trying to do a job to the best of their ability.

I don't think blogging and MSM are in any way mutually exclusive. I do think that MSM will start to pick up some of the better aspects of blogging and that bloggers will start to pick up some of the craft of journalism.

Win win.