26 March 2009

Is blogging journalism?

“Is blogging journalism?” is a stupid question. This is according to Mark Comerford, lecturer of new media in Sweden, as quoted by Matthew Buckland, GM of Publishing & Social Media at 24.com, in an article on this topic.

Until recently, we looked to the radio, TV and newspapers for news and information from the world around us. This was given to us by journalists whom we had no contact with. With the advent of the internet things began to change with the news being made available earlier, packaged with audio, video clips and the opportunity to interact even further by sharing our comments online. This last feature, which is largely responsible for assisting the popularity of blogs, is now increasingly being found on traditional media websites.

Glenn Fleishman, free-lance reporter for the New York Times, explains how: "Someone spots your article, which triggers a blog entry, which triggers further responses, and before you know it your blog becomes part of an interactive discussion that's being read and cited by thousands of people."

Another characteristic of blogs is that, compared to journalists, bloggers are not completely at the mercy of big media. Fleishman describes an entrepreneur interviewed in the New York Times, who felt that the article gave an inaccurate interpretation and promptly clarified his position on his blog.

The freedom to publish blogs easily and cheaply has been taken worldwide with initiatives like Global Voices, which calls itself a ‘participatory media news room for voices from the developing world’. It has more than 150 volunteer authors and claims to be helping individuals and media professionals around the world, gain access to the diverse voices from blogs. Global Voices have a team of bloggers from all over the world, which they feel ‘understand the context and relevance of information, views, and analysis’ being posted every day from their countries, to highlight things that other bloggers are saying but which mainstream media may not be reporting.

Global Voices, and other initiatives and developments in blogging, allow bloggers to self regulate and become more organised. “Blogging is a platform for opinionated people to publish opinion pieces. It has become a platform for citizen journalism and can be used to publish journalistic pieces that adhere to news writing or feature guidelines,” says Ayesha Mall, journalism lecturer at Durban University of Technology. Hence a distinction is made between no rules, no guidelines blogging and the loose term ‘citizen journalism’.

Vincent Maher, one of the judges of the Telkom ICT Journalist of the Year awards, argues that citizen journalism is not necessarily blogging because, while both are done by ‘citizens’, blogging lacks the essential methods and processes inherent in journalism. He claims that while blogging has not yielded a mass of citizen journalism, other online projects have. But Maher himself campaigned for the acceptance of blog entries into the 2006 Telkom ICT Journalist of the Year awards, which created the ‘community and citizen journalism’ category. So, as millions of internet users take on the role of columnist, reporter, analyst and publisher, blogging can be partly credited for creating this powerful new form of ‘citizen journalism’.

"Asking if bloggers are journalists is the wrong question,” says Mohamed Nanabhay, Head of New Media at Al Jazeera, “the question that should be asked is: How has the media ecosystem changed since the emergence of blogging and what opportunities does it bring?"

Good journalism is supposed to, amongst other things, empower people with facts, understanding, and perspective about important issues. Citizen journalists are sometimes able to perform these tasks better than traditional journalists for various reasons. During the tense hours of the hostage drama in Mumbai, citizen journalists were being closely followed online, as they were given up to date coverage with eye witness information, pictures, audio and video footage. The same happened with the recent Turkish Airline crash in Netherlands, with citizen journalists being interviewed by many news stations who didn’t have journalists on the ground. And perhaps to a greater level during the attacks on Gaza, when Israel didn’t allow journalists into Gaza, and the BBC and Al Jazeera relied on citizens in the area to provide content. These examples are perhaps the future of journalism, as traditional media and the new citizen journalist work together to provide good journalism.

Matthew Buckland argued that asking “Is blogging journalism?” is like asking “Is your telephone journalism?” Blogging is a ‘communication medium, a message, a culture and a way of life,’ but what is really important is the message.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dont you ever feel like you are a fake? That you have all these causes but inside your soul isnt fulfilled? You arent a good person, you just like to think you are. Friendship has meaning to good people. You use people for your own gain and discard them once you are done with them. Its pathetic.