Are Bloggers Journalists?

22 01 2009

If blogging is citizen journalism then bloggers are citizen journalists, which by definition is a form of journalism.  Blogger relations might then have much in common with media relations.

I argued this case or something much akin to it in a lecture I gave for the Chartered Institute of Public Relations in May 2008 at Leeds Metropolitan University.  

I had pursued this argument before with little opposition but when the Q&A section came round my argument hit a wall.  Richard Bailey, an academic blogger and university lecturer at Leeds took me to task on this view and Chris Norton Account Director at Wolfstar supported his assertion that blogger relations and media relations are very different. 

The two points of view can be broadly summarised thus:

The case for the prosecution

  • Bloggers don’t like and seldom use press releases
  • Bloggers are generally of independent mind and blog because they want to express their own views and opinions and not those of others
  • Blogs are not edited in the traditional sense and therefore can not be considered to be media in the conventional sense
  • Many blogs simply don’t have an audience
  • We have to engage with bloggers in a different way involving more dialogue and discussion

The case for the defense

  • Journalists don’t much like press releases either and never did.
  • I’ve met some pretty independent minded journalists in my time.  If in doubt read Nick Davies’s excellent ‘Flat Earth News’.  He’s man of independent mind (although he describes others that are not). 
  • The difference between blogs and ‘traditional media’ on line is becoming blurred.  The process of editing creates authority but it does not mean that blogs can’t be authoritative.  

I modified my view after listening to both Richard and Chris but I do believe there is a significant amount of common ground in how we approach the most influential bloggers and how we have deal with journalists who fit the more traditional mould.  I imagine however that the debate will run and run.

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2 responses

22 01 2009
Mick

Okay, quickly. I’m a political blogger of six nearly seven years standing (4-5k uniques a day). I get press releases from all of the political parties of the areas I cover.

I also get notices from the high court telling me what stories I can and cannot cover (I used to rely on a friendly journo editor tipping me the wink, but that’s too scary).

I don’t want PRs from just anyone; but I will take stuff from people who are interested in talking to the people I talk to. I get prompts all the time, but they have to be talking about substantial, curious or very newsworthy before I will act upon it.

If you get to me, you’ll get to the editors of the newspapers and news agencies who scour my blog from lunchtime onwards for ideas to fill their blank spaces.

There is a difference between blogging and journalism. I get paid well for journalism and make only a stipendary income for my blogging. But for me, we bloggers (and our readers) do the thinking job that journalists no longer have the time for.

23 01 2009
Rob Brown

Mick it’s fascinating to hear the opinion of someone who understands at first hand both the pressures of journalism and the relative freedom (from both time pressures and financial rewards) that comes with blogging. Thanks.

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