Journalism Personal Publishing

The Ostrich of Journalism…

God what a stupid article. What a profoundly stupid article. I mean let’s not even start with the condemnation of Google as the closest thing to an online Superpower, because while there may be some truth to it, at the moment it’s pretty much just unsubstantiated scare-mongering. But reopening the ‘weblogs as journalism’ debate again? Now that really is stupid. Particularly if you’re not going to make any effort to look past the obvious towards a slightly more nuanced and intelligent reaction. For god’s sake, internet expert, push it a little further.

“Blogging is not journalism. Often it is as far from journalism as it is possible to get, with unsubstantiated rumour, prejudice and gossip masquerading as informed opinion. Without editors to correct syntax, tidy up the story structure or check facts, it is generally impossible to rely on anything one finds in a blog without verifying it somewhere else – often the much-maligned mainstream media.

Now I have no interest in getting involved in this “are they” / “aren’t they” debate – except to repeat my scandalous assertion that in fact news journalism is etymologically a subset of “journalism” – ie. journal writing – making news journalism in many ways a ‘special case’ / subset of weblogging. But I have to be honest, the idea that the limit of this whole debate could be ‘are weblogs going to replace journalism’ – well it pisses the crap out of me. Because while some journalists are sitting around complaining about about how you can’t trust anything you read unless it’s had an editor to correct the grammar, the actually interesting and significant debates are being totally ignored.

These are the debates about what effect an empowered and vocally reactive readership might have on journalism, or the debates about the implications of the huge traffic peaks that can happen when all of webloggia turns your way. These are the debates about how incredibly useful and important it would be to gauge statistically which news stories actually do matter to people, and what it means when hundreds of thousands of people decide to take the news they’ve been given and do something with it – push it further, do their own research – on occasion refusing or challenging the initial piece. How would that change the job of a journalist? What effect would that have, will that have, in two / five / twenty years?

In fact while these journalists are busy shoring up their own defences neurotically against the unlikely threat of freelance weirdos like myself putting them out of a job, they’re studiously resisiting every opportunity to actually interact with this huge distributed community.

This kind of facile superficial reaction would be totally acceptable if it came from well-established print journalists unfamiliar with what’s emerging online. But from technology journalists it smacks of disgruntlement, paranoia and a profound refusal to think past the most obvious conclusion they come to. These are individuals who have been told by some idiot at a dinner party once that their industry is under attack and have decided it’s time to put these “upstarts” in their place.

The whole thing is based on a really simple misconception – they keep viewing each individual weblog as if it was competing with the New York Times. But instead of doing that, they should be looking at how hundreds of thousands of (proper media) readers have completely shifted from passive reception of news to repurposing it, commenting upon it and – on occasion – challenging it… If they don’t do that, if they don’t shift from building defences to looking for the opportunities, then they really are going to be put out of a job – not because they’ve been squeezed out by other webloggers, but because some other companies (maybe even that tiny Google start-up everyone’s talking about) will find some way to do it first and do it better…