Journalists take to blogging like ducks to tarmac
April 09, 2008
Should journalists blog? I'm sure I've covered this before (well, actually I have) but a recent interview about teaching blogging to journalists spurred an interesting response from an editor who hated the idea but happened to be a pretty decent blogger himself, so here we go again.
First the backdrop: from time to time I try to write a piece or two for journalisten.no about all the media innovation happening around the world, such as this piece on Spokesman Review's "transparent newsroom", or this recent two-part interview with Adam Tinworth on how Reed Business Information (RBI) England uses blogs to supplement its journalism, and the challenges of teaching journalists how to blog (all links in this paragraph in Norwegian).
Some journalists make lousy bloggers
If you are familiar with Adam's blog, you will know that not all journalists take to blogging like ducks to water, or, to use the words of Andrew Grant-Adamson "some very good journalists make lousy bloggers," but if you're not, and Norwegian is all Greek to you, here's a few highlights:
"Most journalists have spent decades having personality beaten out of them, now they have to find their personality again.
"The biggest single mental hurdle for journalists is that they leap into the blogosphere and expect huge traffic at once due to brand name. Inevitably, they get severely disappointed as it takes time to build a blog audience. But over time they learn to love the hundreds of readers they have on their blogs much more than the hundred thousands of readers they have in print.
Journalists equate blogs with opinion pieces
"If reporters leave blog comments very long for moderation, we know they don't follow comments well. They need to be taught blogging is not only about writing. The shocking thing is that you see a lot of journalists don't care about their readers, but I don' think these journalists will survive. Readers will come to expect interaction."
Or, to use a recent line from Kevin Anderson, The Guardian's blog editor. (via Adam): "one of the things that many journalists don't do enough of when they blog: Listen". Now, as I mentioned at the start of the post, this interview provoked a phone call from a Norwegian editor, namely the managing editor of RBI Norway, who was very keen to stress that his titles were not getting into the blogging business anytime soon.
And I'm very glad this editor got in touch with us and told me what he thought about all this, because I know a lot of journalists share his views and fears. In fact, as the news site of the trade publication for Norwegian journalists this is exactly the kind of debate we want to put on the agenda (and our comment section is wide open):
Blogging is second-hand journalism
"I find it strange that journalists blog next to their reporting. Why can't you keep the readers informed through a good news service with sources? A reporter's stories should be published in proper articles, not rushed out as blog posts," this editor said.
However, he also told me that he wrote a blog in his spare time that had "nothing to do with work". And I promised I wouldn't link to his blog in my article as he felt it wouldn't interest anybody, but I will mention it here because it's more than interesting enough for me to start subscribing to it. See, it turns out this guy is Norway's only internationally accredited cross-country court builder and blogs about cross-country competitions because, it gives him "an opportunity to highlight results that rarely get mentioned in the daily press" .
A potentially star-quality blogger
Now at this point I should mention that I used to be really into equestrian sports. Perhaps I'm a bit of a ninny, but, whereas I'd trust my skills as a rider to re-school problem horses or break in young ones (or used to, now those skills are very rusty), I never found much joy in cross-country jumps myself as there are too many factors beyond my control (permanent/solid fences lead to nasty accidents).
So I couldn't agree more with Anton in his most recent post which deals with how there's been too many fatal accidents during competitions as of late, but I used to know a lot of people in the equestrian scene, so still find it very interesting. In fact, if I was editing an equestrian magazine, this is exactly the kind of blog I'd like to link up or get on board (though I'd like to know even more about the challenges of building cross-country courts).
Blurring the lines
His posts (infrequent as the sport is seasonal) are great reporting mixed with informed opinion, the opinion of a professional who knows the sport inside out, which brings me to the last argument Anton had against mixing blogging and journalism: "Blogs are more of a genre for commentary. If journalists start blogging too much, I fear the lines between news and commentary will become blurred."
I'm sure many editors and journalist share those fears, and having written this, I'm starting to wonder if I haven't come to see journalism more like a conversation, or perhaps that should be: if I haven't started blurring the lines between blogging, which I see as conversation, and journalism. If so, is that the first sign of corruption?
Blogging can be too big a hurdle for some journalists
(picture from Wikipedia)
Great piece Kristine,
The short answer is that of course journalists should blog.
Yes there is a problem about the blurring of fact and opinion but let's be honest haven't we got that anyway in the media.
Posted by: Nigel Barlow | April 10, 2008 at 11:08 AM
Journalists are inherantly good writers with a flair for words.
Why shouldn't we blog if we've got something interesting to say?
As long as it doesn't conflict with our reporting I think it's a good thing. There's a pleasure to be had in reading a well written blog.
Posted by: Sam Blackledge | April 10, 2008 at 11:10 AM
Don't know. You tell me...
Posted by: RickWaghorn | April 10, 2008 at 12:00 PM
Of course, as I've been in the blogging game for quite a while myself, I'm quite partial to the idea of journalists blogging - as I touch on in the first link. But I do think that journalists have a few additional obstacles to overcome. I'll try to return to this in the morning.
Nigel: yes, I do seem to remember having one or two debates about editorialising in the pre-blogging days too:-)
Posted by: Kristine | April 10, 2008 at 10:32 PM