Blogging as Journalism and other modern myths

I’m not sure if webloggers buy into the whole “weblogging as a new and better form of Journalism” because they truly see themselves in this light, or because they seek some form of justification for all the time they spend weblogging.

People can call themselves whatever they want in their weblogs; their space, their place. However, when they start taking themselves seriously, think of themselves as pioneering personal Journalists in a brave new World Media, then I beg leave to differ. Weblogging is not a replacement for mainstream media. Weblogging is not a replacement for traditional news sources. Weblogging is not capital ‘J’ Journalism.

While its true that webloggers can be first at a story, being first doesn’t make a person a Journalist; it just makes them lucky. In some cases, it makes them unlucky.

Webloggers can also provide a personal perspective of an event, background color if you will; supplying nuances the dry recital of fact doesn’t provide. But webloggers don’t have access to the resources that make up a story, that form what we call “news”.

Ultimately the difference between webloggers and Journalists is that Journalists have an obligation to provide the facts, all the facts. To assist them in their effort, they’re given access to resources and information most of us do not have. And with this access comes a responsibility.

In our weblogs, we hold to our own moral code of what we consider responsible writing; we can say what we think and feel, issuing compliment or slander with impunity and disregard for consequences.

The Journalist, though, is held not only to their own code, but to their editor’s, their publication’s, their peers’, the code of the law, and, ultimately, their readers’ codes. And if they slander without fact, they risk loss of respect, at best, and a lawsuit at worst. If they tell only half the story, they are condemned and censured when the full truth is told.

Tuesday, in an article titled Blogosphere: the emerging Media Ecosystem, John Hiler wrote:

Because of these limited resources, many have charged Traditional Media with a consistent bias that fails to reflect the diversity of opinions and ideas. About half the email I get on this subject claims that bias is a Liberal one, while the other half claims it’s a decidedly Conservative one. Either way, there is a strong sense from some readers that Media organizations have a mixed record when it comes to accurately and fairly reporting the News.

Many people are looking to weblogs to help address this media bias.

Using weblogging to address media bias. I almost fell over laughing when I read this. But I sobered as Hiler entered into a discussion about the impact webloggers such as Glenn Reynolds and Meryl Yourish had on the recent clash between pro-Palestian/pro-Israel protestors at SFSU (summarized at another weblog).

Hiler congratulates Reynolds and Meryl and others for bringing this breaking news to the attention of the mainstream media, to Journalism:

As Meryl and others broke the story, other mainstream outlets followed the story across the Breaking News – Analysis – Op-Ed continuum.

Hiler also quotes Reynolds:

As Glenn explained, “Sometimes a story will streak across the Blogosphere like a praerie fire. Weblogs can be the dry grass, helping to spread the story.” But interestingly, some stories don’t make the leap from weblogs to mass media articles precisely because they’ve been so widely blogged. As he put it, “Journalists will sometimes drop a story idea because they’ve already been so well covered in weblogs.”

Weblogging: a thousand points of news.

If the concept of noble weblogger as Journalist is true, then I’m curious as to why isn’t there weblogger follow-up to the SFSU story? For instance, why is there no weblogger coverage of the fact that the college referred students to the DA for prosecution for hate crimes? After all, this is news, too.

In fact, Big Media – that same biased Big Media – printed the story, as seen in:

SF Gate

The PIXPage

A SFSU news release

Mercury News

SFSU’s web site created to address the issue, including a summary of the events

However, when I looked for this story in weblogs such as Meryl’s and Glenn Reynold,s I didn’t find one mention of this information. Why was this?

Is it because recent facts have emerged, such as the fact that both pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli students have been referred to the DA for hate crimes? Is it because of the fact that there were pro-Palestinian people working to control members of their protest, trying to keep the demonstration peaceful?

Is it because in this fight, no one was entirely on the side of angels, and no one was entirely dancing with the devil?

Weblogger as Journalist. Yeah. Right.

It’s time we put the story of Weblogger as Journalist on the shelf next to stories of Bigfoot and Ogopogo and the other great myths of our time.