Journalism education and tips for journalists

Monday, September 13, 2004

More thoughts on journalism and blogging

It is important to remember that blogs are only a simple (at least for the end-user) content managing system – structure, not content. This is significant especially in the context of the discussion about blogging and journalism.

The question – “are blogs journalism?” - is in fact a deeply misleading one. Just as the development of the offset printing process [ 1865: Used first by the Philadelphia Ledger, the machine would become an American standard. It would also kill its maker, William Bullock, who died when he accidentally fell into one of his presses.] allowed for an explosive expansion of newspapers, it also led to a huge increase in all printed matter from penny dreadfuls to public relations.

The question is not “are blogs journalism?” but how – if at all – a new distribution and publishing tool is changing journalism.

Not at all a new question. It is one that was asked a decade ago as a wave of web-publishing on the Internet crashed down on an unsuspecting and unprepared industry. Few would deny that the introduction of the World Wide Web on a mass scale has serious long-term effect on journalism. The majority of newspaper in the world, from the prestigious, New York Times, The Guardian, Svenska Dagbladet, Dagens Nyheter, to the local, Africa, Mitt-I, have a web presence and consider it a natural and important part of their publishing.

Television news, currant affairs programs, reality shows, soaps, all have websites coupled to them.

Radio, long seen as the medium least likely to adapt to the web, is now the most web-savy of media. Broadcasting by streaming technology had hugely widened the possible audience and websites accompanying programs have allowed for both a widening and deepening of the information available to listeners (who are now also readers and occasionally viewers). It is notable that the Swedish national broadcaster, SR, has been voted best site in Sweden two years running.

It is only a relatively short while ago that many of these organisations scoffed at the idea that they would be cross media publishers.

The same objections that were raised then are being seen again in relation to blogs, blogging and bloggers.

Perhaps the question is less how journalism is produced and more how journalism is perceived and consumed. And how the consumer has become a producer of - ahh, there’s the rub - what? Are comments to journalistic texts journalism? Commentary? It definitely has meaning and that meaning often deepens our understanding, or broadens our horizons, or both, of the original text.

[more to come]


  • Mark, in reading over the post I was reminded of something I had read a while back.

    In his prescient "Reports from the Global Villiage" (first published in 1967!) Umberto Eco outlines some notion of what he terms a "cultural guerrilla." In discussing mass communication, in the process devastating theories outlined by Marshall MacLuhan in "The Medium is the Massage", Eco writes:

    "The methods of this cultural guerrilla have to worked out. Probably in the interrelation of the various communications media, one medium can be employed to communicate a series of opinions on another medium....the constant correction of perspectives, the checking of codes, the ever renewed interpretations of mass messages. The universe of Technological Communication would then be patrolled by groups of communications guerrillas, who would restore a critical dimension to passive reception."

    Eco was writing before blogs, but it is easy how blogs could fit his idea of multiple "codes" of interpretation that are worked out depending on particular sociological and historical factors at the point of discussion.

    I would agree entirely with your concluding paragraph "perhaps the question is less how journalism is produced and more how journalism is perceived and consumed..." And perhaps the blogosphere has precisely this power to be revolutionary, for the interpretation of the message, the agreed upon code, arrived at through deliberation, is more important that the medium by which it is transferred.

    All of which brings up how much this happens in the conversational world of blogs. As many of my recent posts about the American presidential election have detailed, blogs follow the mainstream press and reinterpret it; rarely, if ever, do they follow their own path in re-defining public discourse.

    Perhaps the definition of journalism then lies in its relationship to power in a Foucaultian sense?

    In his definition, power "must be understood in the first instance as the multiplicity of force relations immanent in the sphere in which they operate and which constitute their own organization; as the process which, through ceaseless struggles and confrontations, transforms, strengthens, or reverses them; as the support which these force relations find in one another, thus forming a chain or system....and lastly, as the strategies in which they take effect, whose general design of institutional crystallization is embodied in the state apparatus, in the formulation of law, in the various social hegemonies."

    Then we can look at the question of "what is journalism" as an agreed upon social product that derives its emcompassing power to set and define public discourse and set the terms upon which its own authority can be contested through a system of general consent. Looked at in this way, blogs can surely be utilized as a point of resistance, but more often than not seem easily incorporated into a broader definition of "journalism."

    They can perhaps bring about incremental change, but more often than not stengthen the social legitmacy of other forces in the system (for instance, the celebrity-driven coverage of presidential elections.)

    By Blogger dkreiss, at 10:51 AM  

  • ##NAME#. It's been nice to read from your blog and this post. My stuff is on organize life and particularly organize life

    By Anonymous organization tips, at 8:54 AM  

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