Saturday, October 08, 2005

# Posted 6:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TODAY'S NAVEL GAZE: IS BLOGGING JOURNALISM? An undergraduate majoring in communications sent me an e-mail on Wednesday asking if blogging is journalism. Here's what I had to say:
I think that most political blogging falls into the category of opinion journalism. Although not regimented into 800-word columns, blogging resembles very closely what one sees on the editorial page of America's major newspapers. It consists of analysis based on facts compiled by others.

So, one might ask, are Tom Friedman and Jim Hoagland still journalists? Or did they stop being journalists once they became commentators? It's hard to say, since no one really has official control of who is considered a journalist. What most bloggers certainly are not is correspondents. Few of us provide first-hand reports from places where news is happening.

Then again, sometimes we do. OxBlog recently covered the anti-war protests at the White House and last year it covered the anti-war protests at the GOP convention, as well as the convention itself. More signficantly, there are many bloggers who regularly provide first-hand reports from far-flung places such as Lebanon, Iraq and elsehwhere.

What bloggers almost never do is simulate the authoritative, detached voice of most professional correspondents. We have no intrest in writing just-the-facts-ma'am reports that attempt to provide information without offending the reader. Why not? Well, one reason is that we instinctively distrust full-time journalists' pretensions of non-partisanship and objectivity. Another is that we usually have pretty strong opinions and no incentive to hide them.

I think its extremely important not to think of blogging and journalism as competitors or polar opposites. A lot of early coverage seemed to suggest that blogging aspired to replace journalism. This angle seemed plausible because so many bloggers, myself included, are almost obsessed with the mistakes, misperceptions and alleged bias of the "mainstream media".

In truth, blogging is a medium whereas journalism is an activity. Thus, in the final analysis it will always be misleading to ask if one is the other and vice versa. Some bloggers have no interest in politics or current events. They use their blogs to trade recipes or write about their boyfriends and girlfriends. Some journalists consider blogging to be a good way to cover their subjects.

But if the question is inherently misleading, why is it asked so often? Again, this comes back to bloggers' habit of criticizing journalists. If you argue that bloggers are not journalists, then you are suggesting that bloggers aren't qualified to criticize journalists, just as patients aren't qualified to criticize doctors.

If one could make a persuasive argument that journalism is a well-defined profession, such as medicine or the law, perhaps I would be inclined to criticize it less. But from where I stand, journalism seems to consist of little more than common sense, which is often quite uncommon even among journalists.

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