blogs and journalism
This page looks at the interaction of blogs, politics
and the media: blogging as the 'new journalism'.
It covers -
a new journalism?
It is unsurprising that blogging has been acclaimed as
the basis for a 'new journalism' - authors free to publishing
for a discriminating audience (ideally larger than themselves
and their dogs) without the "shackles of big media".
One enthusiast thus claimed that
is a true democratizing agent. The promise of the Internet
was that people would have a voice. This is one of the
tools that's making it happen.
magazine desperately anointed bloggers in 2006
seizing the reins of the global media, for founding
and framing the new digital democracy, for working for
nothing and beating the pros at their own game
examples are JD Lasica's quick
Amateur and Professional Journalists: The Debate Rages
On, Rob Walker's The News According to Blogs
John Hiler's 2002 Blogosphere: the emerging Media Ecosystem
Mark Deuze's more nuanced 2001 paper
Online Journalism: Modelling the First Generation of
News Media on the World Wide Web and papers in Blogging,
Citizenship and the Future of Media (New York: Routledge
2006) edited by Mark Tremayne.
Esther Dyson associate Kevin Werbach enthused
that "the proliferation of content on the Web reduces
the authority of traditional media brands and gatekeepers,
who no longer have a lock on audience eyeballs".
Andrew Sullivan similarly praised
the 'blogging revolution'
is changing the media world and could, I think, foment
a revolution in how journalism functions in our culture'
...[it might represent] a publishing revolution more
profound than anything since the printing press
Ellis, interviewing his own keyboard in the April 2002
that blogs free the pundits from old media. Those pundits
- presumably including himself - are
the most energetic, lively, and passionate analysis,
commentary, and opinion around ...
Bloggers are not devoted to keeping you on their page.
Their purpose is to take you to other places. They figure
that if they do that well enough, you'll return to the
peer group that they host.
What further distinguishes bloggers is their understanding
of the peer communities that they serve. For one thing,
bloggers assume that their readers are as smart as they
are, if not smarter. What a refreshing notion! When
they're not focused on themselves, mainstream journalists
spend most of their time sucking up to sources and writing
with a keen eye toward source protection. Bloggers spend
most of their time engaged in constant communication
with their readers.
Katz was further over the top, with a FreedomForum rave
about blogs occupying a unique space. They are
example of the biological evolution of electronic communities
— and of the astonishing ability of people online to
create their own customized media.
vision is reminiscent of Howard Rheingold's
The Virtual Community (Minerva: London 1994) and
Mobs: The Next Social Revolution (New York: Perseus
Dan Gillmor's We the Media: Grassroots Journalism
by the People, for the People (Sebastopol: O'Reilly
2004) claimed that
journalists are dismantling Big Media's monopoly on
the news, transforming it from a lecture to a conversation
Madanmohan Rao merely claimed that
the 21st century, every business is a publisher, every
Internet or mobile user is a reporter, and every citizen
is an editor.
Wariness about atomisation of online microcommunities
is evident in Cass Sunstein's Republic.com (Albany:
State Uni of NY Press 2001), Markus Prior's Post-Broadcast
Democracy: How Media Choice Increases Inequality in Political
Involvement and Polarizes Elections (Cambridge: Cambridge
Uni Press 2007), Joseph Turow's Breaking Up America:
Advertisers & the New Media World (Chicago: Chicago
Uni Press 1997), other studies highlighted elsewhere on
this site and some items noted on the Cyberjournalist.net
Weblog Blog (Reports on Weblogging as journalism)
There is a more splenetic response in Michael Keren's
Blogosphere: The New Political Arena (Lanham:
Lexington 2006), a work that provoked emo among the 'pyjamahadeen'
over hyperbole that bloggers are "lonely and isolated".
No Time to Think: The Menace of Media Speed and the
24-Hour News Cycle (London: Continuum 2008) by Howard
Rosenberg & Charles Feldman lamented that
journalists [are] ordained as democratising saviors,
liberating society from the tyranny of competence and
Arianna Huffington, belatedly sniffing the zeitgeist in
April 2004, penned a "mash note to the blogosphere",
put, blogs are the greatest breakthrough in popular
journalism since Tom Paine broke onto the scene …
When bloggers decide that something matters, they chomp
down hard and refuse to let go. They're the true pit
bulls of reporting. The only way to get them off a story
is to cut off their heads (and even then you'll need
to pry their jaws open). They almost all work alone,
but, ironically, it's their collective effort that makes
them so effective. They share their work freely, feed
off one another's work, argue with each other, and add
to the story dialectically.
George Packer disagreed
in The Revolution Will Not Be Blogged, claiming
that blogs are
fragmentary, and of the instant. They lack the continuity,
reach, and depth to turn an election into a story. …
this particular branch of the Fourth Estate just doesn't
lend itself to sustained narrative and analysis. Blogs
remain private, written in the language and tone of
knowingness, insider shorthand, instant mastery. Read
them enough and any subject will go dead.
Kamm also dissented from Huffington's hype, noting
practice, while the medium of delivery has changed,
the content of newspapers remains the same. The online
and print editions of this newspaper are almost identical.
Internet evangelists believed electronic newspapers
would be storehouses of information; in fact most people
want not more information but more efficient ways of
organising the information they are given.
What blogs do effectively is provide a vehicle for instant
comment and opinion. ... They are not a new form of
journalism, but new packaging for a venerable part of
a newspaper. Even the best blogs are parasitic on what
their practitioners contemptuously call the "mainstream
media". Without a story to comment on or an editorial
to rubbish, they would have nothing to say.
Most blogs have nothing to say even then. Without editorial
control, they are unconstrained by sense, proportion
or grammar. Almost by definition, they are the preserve
of those with time on their hands. Blogs have a few
successes in harrying miscreant politicians or newspapers,
but they are a vehicle for perpetuating myths as much
as correcting them.
Valley pundit Dan Gillmor claimed in 2002 that the blog
is becoming the "standard news medium", as the
world moves from "old Media, through New Media, to
We Media" - "using the power and the knowledge
and the energy of people at the edges".
William Powers quipped
that "Allegiance to individual media outlets has
become an eccentric affectation, like wearing a bow tie".
It is unclear, however, whether most blog readers (and
writers) are more eclectic. As Sunstein notes in Why
Societies Need Dissent (Cambridge: Harvard Uni Press
2003) a mass media provides opportunities for expression
of and exposure to differing views; that's in contrast
to the conformity of much blogging.
Mark Cuban, conflating ubiquity with quality, acclaimed
bloggers as the "new paparazzi" -
those gates, knocking on the door, trying to be heard
for the past 100 or more years have been wanna be Woodward
and Bernsteins. People with information, ideas
and concepts that they know the populace would respond
to have been turned away, again and again.
Its payback time. The bloggers are here, and they are
ready to knock down the gates and get their pound of
flesh. The traditional media has no idea what is about
to hit them.
In every major conference, at every major speech, sitting
at tables in restaurants, there is going to be a blogger
or podcaster with microphone, PDA, Videophone, laptop
or paper and pencil in hand. Listening. Taking notes.
That information is going to be transmitted to and from
a blog entry and placed in the hands of "the readers".
Unlike celebrities who hear or see the flash of the
camera, the gatekeepers don't know they are there. Blogging
in plain site. Questioning everything.
might think that the old paparazzi
were bad enough ... and that there will be more echoing
than questioning or checking. Franklin Foer commented
that the "derisive attitude" towards "old
nothing more than the New Left, which charged journalism
with dulling the sense and sensibility of the masses,
preventing them from seeing the horrors of the capitalist
brickbats and bolsheviks
Dave Winer, whose involvement was noted on the preceding
page, characterised critics of blogging as
ink-stained journalists who are scared by what we're
doing here. We cover technology better than they ever
In contrast, Gawker proprietor Nick Denton dismissed hype
about 'the blog revolution ' by saying
me a break. The hype comes from unemployed or partially
employed marketing professionals and people who never
made it as journalists wanting to believe ... They want
to believe there's going to be this new revolution and
their lives are going to be changed.
Eric Engberg commented
after the 2004 US presidential election that
public is now assaulted by news and pretend-news from
many directions, thanks to the now infamous "information
superhighway." But the ability to transmit words,
we learned during the Citizens Band radio fad of the
70's, does not mean that any knowledge is being passed
along. One of the verdicts rendered by election night
2004 is that, given their lack of expertise, standards
and, yes, humility, the chances of the bloggers replacing
mainstream journalism are about as good as the parasite
replacing the dog it fastens on.
Brown spoke of "Big Journalism's realization that
it has lost control"
Media are trapped in the pincer assaults of the fact-free
ethical anarchy of the blogosphere and the cynicism
of quarterly profit-driven conglomerates enslaved to
Schanberg commented that
oracles are telling us that newspapers will die soon,
as the Internet takes over. But the puzzlement is, where
will the new digital providers of information get their
fresh news? serious journalism is labor-intensive and
time-consuming and therefore requires large amounts
of money and health benefits and pensions. The blogosphere
has plenty of time, but as yet none of the other items.
So if and when newspapers fade into darkness, as the
all-seeing oracles foretell, what will happen? Perhaps,
in a future time of airborne pigs, altruism will suddenly
infuse our culture, and money will descend, like manna,
on the Internet to pay for the reporters to do the intensive
journalism needed as a check on abusive power. And if
altruism or labor-friendly corporate ideologies don't
magically appear? The oracles are mostly silent on that
Raynsford's 2003 Blogging: the new journalism
opinionated, ranting, often incoherent and frequently
biased with little regard for accuracy or balance. They
are also compellingly addictive and threatening to emerge
as a new brand of journalism. ...
Perhaps one attraction of blogging lies in its unmediated
and dynamic quality. Without an agenda, editorial stance
or pedantic sub-editor standing between the writer and
reader, blogging can provide reportage in a raw and
lack of professional ethics and quality control - there
is much to be said for fact-checking and research - has
however been criticised. One example is Rusty Foster's
The utter failure of weblogs as journalism.
Brendan O'Neill commented
is more to journalism than instant reaction and response.
Good journalism involves rising above your immediate
concerns, weighing up the facts, and attempting to say
something more measured and insightful - sometimes even
truthful and profound. Blogging creates a white noise
of personal prejudice, akin to students arguing in a
bar rather than experts saying anything striking. I
haven't got a problem with pub-style debates about the
issues of the day - but journalism it isn't.
the 'blogosphere' making the crusty publishers of yesteryear
obsolete? Is the spread of personal websites on a par
with the birth of print? Not quite. Blogging may be
fun - which is why I've been publishing one at www.brendanoneill.net
for the past six months; it may even be a new and exciting
way of using the web. But it's not journalism, and it
ain't no revolution.
For all the claims that the 'big bloggers' are challenging
the traditionalists, in fact many blogs simply leech
off the old-style media. The political and comment blogs
that are seen as being at the forefront of the 'blogging
revolution' often do little more than write about and
react to articles published in traditional media outlets
(or 'the Big Media' as they call it), rather than generating
new journalistic content.
Levy offered a more upbeat comment in Newsweek
during March 2003, suggesting
it was inevitable that this war would become the breakthrough
for blogs. The bigmouths of the so-called Blogosphere
have long contended that the form deserves to be seen
as a significant component of 21st-century media. And
in the months preceding the invasion, blogging about
the impending conflict had been feisty and furious.
But it wasn't until the bombs hit Baghdad that Weblogs
finally found their moment. The arrival of war, and
the frustratingly variegated nature of this particular
conflict, called for two things: an easy-to-parse overview
for news junkies who wanted information from all sides,
and a personal insight that bypassed the sanitizing
Cuisinart of big-media news editing.
have explored the 'culture of celebrity' and ambivalence
about privacy and online/offline 'tabloid journalism (people
say they deplore invasive journalism and treasure their
privacy but seem comfortable consuming trash tv and condoning
invasions) in a separate profile.
Perry de Havilland, considering hype about blogs, democracy
and the media in 2003, commented
I would answer that blogs are evolution–izing
journalism, not revolutionising it: Brendan O'Neill
is no less of a journalist for being a blogger and neither
is Stephen Pollard, who also blogs. The dead tree publications
for which they write are neither harmed nor helped overall
... blogs push a great deal of traffic towards their
websites, but are in direct competition with the part
of a newspaper or broadcaster which editorialises. However
blogs do not have reporters in Afghanistan or Liberia:
blogs are mostly about punditry rather than reporting.
So a journalist's ability to write an article for a
newspaper is much as it was, but his ability to act
as a credible independent ‘commentator’
is enhanced by his blog articles, many of which might
be overly opinionated for a newspaper editor mindful
of his shareholders or ministerial chums ...
And far from blogs 'enhancing democracy', which is just
another way of saying enhancing 'politics', blogs are
giving people a social alternative to political interaction.
Certainly my personal little section of the blogosphere
(which is the term for the community of blogs) is dedicated
to throwing spanners rather than oil into the political
machinery of state. Democracy is just politics and politics,
and like the established media which panders to it,
it is a crude tool for representing the reality of any
society it claims to 'serve' … well, they serve
it in the farming sense of the word I suppose.
one of the more interesting US writers on cyberculture,
the blog threatens to do is dislodge the traditional
news media's corner on the "scoop" market.
With their unorthodox reporting strategies and lightning-fast
publishing schedules, blogs are making it clear that
you don't need to have some big, fancy newspaper job
to break stories. In fact, you don't even need to write
stories; you can just throw a couple of sentences up
on your site with some telling links.
to Nick Denton defended blogging by saying
implicit in the way that a website is produced that
our standards of accuracy are lower. Besides, immediacy
is more important than accuracy, and humor is more important
collection of views by journalists on journalism and blogging
was published (PDF)
by the Niemann Foundation for Journalism at Harvard in
2003. Other perspectives are provided in Barons to
Bloggers: Confronting Media Power (Carlton: Melbourne
Uni Press 2005) edited by Jonathan Mills and We're
All Journalists Now: The Trans of the Press and Reshaping
of the Law in the Internet Age (New York: Free Press
2007) by Scott Gant.
The Perseus survey noted on preceding pages of this profile
resulted in the claim that
are famed for their linkages, and while 80.8% of active
blogs linked to at least one external site from a post
on their home page, these links were rarely to traditional
news sources. Blogs are updated much less often than
generally thought. Active blogs were updated on average
every 14 days. Only 106,579 of the hosted blogs were
updated on average at least once a week. Fewer than
50,000 were updated daily.
responding to a self-proclaimed "blog daddy"
New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller asked
whether the blogosphere "needs an equivalent of the
courtroom admonition 'asked and answered'
It is massively inclusive but everyone brings to it
an individual appetite and a sense of entitlement, regardless
of whether they have done the homework. You can join
the discussion from a position of raw, opinionated ignorance.
Sometimes the result is less a conversation than a clamor.
Last time, I expressed some frustration that thrice-removed
versions of something I said had scattered across the
digital globe and prompted reactions that bore no relation
to anything I had actually said or thought. Your solution,
if I get your drift, was that I should go blog-to-blog,
dropping in and conversing, winning friends and setting
the record straight. Easy for you to say, since you
seem to live without sleep. By the same standard, I
could probably win friends for The Times by
going door to door in Queens, extolling and explaining
the paper to prospective readers, but is that the best
use of my time? Direct democracy may work in a Swedish
canton, but it doesn't scale very well, and I kind of
think the same thing is true of "citizen's"
journalism. I suspect that for blogging to achieve the
status its practitioners aspire to, it will have to
become a bit less retail, a little more edited, a little
more a product of judgment. In other word, a bit more...like
us, the MSM. In fact, it is already happening, isn't
thing we have not discussed about blogs is the extent
to which they are a waste of time. The thing that struck
me during my week or so of very elementary and intermittent
bloggery is that it is very seductive. (It also helps
overcome byline withdrawal.) It would be easy to shirk
my job and swap thoughts with you and yours, and the
time flies by and at the end we've generated an exchange
that will be skimmed in haste by some number of people,
to what end? And the same thing that is true of blogging
is true of reading blogs, which I do pretty regularly:
you can while away endless hours, skipping over the
surface of half-baked thoughts and every so often colliding
with something original or unexpected. Or you could
play with your kids. Or go to a museum. Or read a good
book. (Or a good newspaper!) The blogosphere may be
interactive, but can you honestly say that the ratio
of thoughtful conversation to meaningless chatter is
any higher than it is on, say, cable TV talk shows?
For now, at least, I prefer a newspaper -- even granting
that it costs more and that I am -- in part -- entrusting
the acquisition of information, the selection of what's
important and the making sense of it to someone else.
For now, for me, bloggers are a prequel and a sequel,
but not the main event. But I would say that, wouldn't
or a new publishing model
Dot-pop pundit Clay Shirky enthused
in the 2002 Weblogs & the Mass Amateurization of
mark a radical break. They are such an efficient tool
for distributing the written word that they make publishing
a financially worthless activity. It's intuitively appealing
to believe that by making the connection between writer
and reader more direct, weblogs will improve the environment
for direct payments as well, but the opposite is true.
By removing the barriers to publishing, weblogs ensure
that the few people who earn anything from their weblogs
will make their money indirectly.
about the 'busker' model for publishing are highlighted
in the 1999 paper
by John Kelsey and Bruce Schneierf on The Street Performer
Shirky dismisses the viability of 'blogging for dollars'
(discussed later in this profile), as
search for direct fees is driven by the belief that,
since weblogs make publishing easy, they should lower
the barriers to becoming a professional writer. This
assumption has it backwards, because mass professionalization
is an oxymoron; a professional class implies a minority
of members. The principal effect of weblogs is instead
mass amateurization. ...
Traditional publishing creates value in two ways. The
first is intrinsic: it takes real work to publish anything
in print, and more work to store, ship, and sell it.
Because the up-front costs are large, and because each
additional copy generates some additional cost, the
number of potential publishers is limited to organizations
prepared to support these costs. (These are barriers
to entry.) And since it's most efficient to distribute
those costs over the widest possible audience, big publishers
will outperform little ones. (These are economies of
scale.) The cost of print insures that there will be
a small number of publishers, and of those, the big
ones will have a disproportionately large market share.
Weblogs destroy this intrinsic value, because they are
a platform for the unlimited reproduction and distribution
of the written word, for a low and fixed cost. No barriers
to entry, no economies of scale, no limits on supply.
Print publishing also creates extrinsic value, as an
indicator of quality. A book's physical presence says
"Someone thought this was worth risking money on." Because
large-scale print publishing costs so much, anyone who
wants to be a published author has to convince a professionally
skeptical system to take that risk. You can see how
much we rely on this signal of value by reflecting on
our attitudes towards vanity press publications.
Weblogs destroy this extrinsic value as well. Print
publishing acts as a filter, weblogs do not. Whatever
you want to offer the world - a draft of your novel,
your thoughts on the war, your shopping list - you get
to do it, and any filtering happens after the fact,
through mechanisms like blogdex and Google. Publishing
your writing in a weblog creates none of the imprimatur
of having it published in print.
This destruction of value is what makes weblogs so important.
We want a world where global publishing is effortless.
We want a world where you don't have to ask for help
or permission to write out loud.
Mark Hurst of CreativeGood
more acutely commented in 2003 that
publishing models have always operated within some scarcity:
raw material (paper, film, reproduction time), geographic
reach, distribution costs. The Internet flips those
models upside down. Online, there is an overabundance
of those things that were once scarce. Bits are free,
the geography is everywhere, and distribution is worldwide,
instantly. The only cost is in promoting the URL. But
the remarkable ease-of-use makes it very attractive
indeed to publish bits, despite the lack of consumers.
These average online authors might put it this way:
why NOT publish your thoughts, your pictures, your life?
It's nearly free to do so, and any user who happens
to show up is just gravy.
So get ready for more, and more, and still more publishing
online of everyone's daily thoughts, pictures, and occurrences.
In an environment of abundance, the lack of consumers
won't deter the creative process
next page (issues)