A print journalist admits her fear of blogs
March 1, 2002 2:07 PM   Subscribe

A print journalist admits her fear of blogs "What 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. And you can quote that naked boy in your bed who knows how to hack protocols. Whatever."
posted by ezfowler (23 comments total)
she sounds like nothing more than an insecure, untalented journalist to me.

And then Andrew Orlowski, a fine reporter for the Register (www.theregister.co.uk; updated daily! argh!) broke this cool story ...

Meanwhile, Cory Doctorow, creator of BoingBoing.net and about a zillion other things, was pounding out copy about the conference while the damn thing was happening. It made me want to kill him, but in a nice way.

is she unaware of the existence of daily print newspapers, and of the fact that many of her print colleagues turn copy around this fast on a daily basis?
posted by damn yankee at 2:22 PM on March 1, 2002

Blogs always struck me as more analagous to op-ed columns then hard-news reporting, as most bloggers are highly opinionated and make no pretenses to objectivity. Hoovering info from the 'net is one thing, but there will always be a need for old-school journalists to hit the street interviewing sources and witnessing events first hand. I also imagine that most professional journalists have better information-gathering technology available to them than the average netsurfer, so she probably shouldn't fear the blog nation.
Those who should fear bloggers, I supppose, are the sunday morning talk-show pundits. When the kid down the street with a PC and a blogger account can pontificate online and be heard(potentially) by millions and get instant response, they get a lot more competition.
posted by jonmc at 2:23 PM on March 1, 2002

And would it have killed them to make those web addresses WORKING LINKS?
posted by ColdChef at 2:23 PM on March 1, 2002

thanks, chef -- i knew i was forgetting something else i wanted to rag on that piece for.
posted by damn yankee at 2:32 PM on March 1, 2002

Well, I guess Ms. Newitz will continue to suffer until she begins having well-targeted anonymous sex for good links like the rest of us. Nyah nyah.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 2:54 PM on March 1, 2002

The fact is, people want their news from a source they trust. While many of us here trust bloggers, the vast majority of people still want to get news from a place that actually existed two years ago. Bloggers are great for filtering news, yes, but that completely relies on full-time reporters and old-style media organizations, too.
posted by mattpfeff at 2:57 PM on March 1, 2002

Perhaps what she should really fear is blog feedback, instead of existing in their safe little cocoons, journalists output may now be dissected, scrutinized and ridiculed in blogs all across the land.
posted by pekar wood at 3:22 PM on March 1, 2002

Even more aggravating is the fact that Blogs aren't the only sites that do this! Why give blogs the attention? Oh right, because this imbecile has probably only discovered the internet after reading some vague newspaper piece about "blogs".

Websites have been posting news, the same way blogs have, for years. This isn't a new thing. Well, maybe to an inept neophyte dictating to her monkey-assistant while pounding back a 40 of Jack Daniels. But I could be wrong...
posted by Dark Messiah at 3:43 PM on March 1, 2002

This attitude is, to say the least, disappointing, but predictable.

I'm sure the boys who rode horseback during the days of the Pony Express expressed similar bitchiness about the telegraph when it first started getting built. More recently some telephone companies tried to get in on the Internet by purchasing stock in companies that ran it, or merging with cable companies that promised the cable modem. Today, technology is changing so many industries and business models that it's hard for people to keep up.

I'm personally surprised there are still newspapers. I usually don't bother with newspapers but recently have tried a few because I thought maybe I'd have better luck seeking work with the classified ads in newspapers than I have had using online websites like monster.com or CareerBuilder. Guess what? Newpapers are worthless. There's simply nothing in a newspaper that cannot be aquired faster and better online. Why do we still buy these things?

Blogs are not necessarily more newsworthy or more ethically journalistic than periodicals, but they're more immediate and often more brutally honest, because there's no editorial team or table of shareholders who are holding back the information.

Newitz may be feeling the growth and slow acceptance of online information to the mainstream in her pocketbook. People like she who are paid for the information they provide to a newspaper would naturally be upset with people who believe information should have no pricetag for anyone. It's like a farmer who has spent his life tilling the soil suddenly being told that his efforts are not worth money, and that all the food he has made must be given away for free.
posted by ZachsMind at 4:14 PM on March 1, 2002

Blogs are not necessarily more newsworthy or more ethically journalistic than periodicals, but they're more immediate and often more brutally honest, because there's no editorial team or table of shareholders who are holding back the information.

This is horribly naive, Zach. What news have you ever read on a blog that wasn't a link to something an editorial team reported? For every one instance you can find, if you can find any, I can give you a thousand that go the other way. Without those editorial teams, and the shareholders who own the companies that pay their salaries, there wouldn't be any of this weblogging you seem to think has replaced mainstream journalism.
posted by mattpfeff at 5:09 PM on March 1, 2002

Any professional fearful of an amateur, probably has good reason to be fearful because they probably suck.

If some person can come home after a day at work and sit down at their laptop and bang out a couple hundred words better than the pro in the newsroom or in the field, the pro should go back to doing whatever they were doing before they became hacks.

Drudge is the perfect example of a glorified Blogger and he never put any journalist out of a job - not even Geraldo - which is just another reason why i cant stand Drudge.
posted by tsarfan at 5:16 PM on March 1, 2002

Bloggers need someone credible to link to; good journalists will always be in demand.
posted by kat at 5:29 PM on March 1, 2002

While I hardly think blogs will replace 'mainstream' journalism anytime soon, I am glad to see at least one journalist sweating over it. I spent 7 years working for a regional newspaper company (three papers, total sunday circ of maybe 100k tops, prolly closer to 90k). Generally speaking the journalist's attitude towards new media ranged from condescending to hostile. Concepts like posting news when it happened on their sites instead of once every 24 hours met with incredible hostility. Concepts like adding links from the posted stories to other resources associated with the stories (ie, using the medium) took months of combat with the editorial boards. Concepts like adding urls in the print stories to the enhanced web version? Same deal. In general, they were incredibly resistant to any change, especially any that involved new media. I left that industry thinking 'these people are doomed.'

I know my former employer was not alone in its attitudes from spending about 4 years on the newspaper industry tradeshow circuit.
posted by Tempus67 at 6:19 PM on March 1, 2002

Do beavers squeak? Jenna N, aged 9, says that 'Beavers make funny noises like a bark.' I don't want to start a cat fight here, but annalee does appear to be contradicting Jenna, and they can't both be right.
posted by RobertLoch at 6:50 PM on March 1, 2002

And you can quote that naked boy in your bed who knows how to hack protocols. Whatever.

This might be whatever to her, but a naked boy in my bed who can also hack protocols? That's my idea of heaven, and it beats a dowdy print columnis any day.
posted by evanizer at 8:25 PM on March 1, 2002

I'd like to point out that Ms. Newitz is hardly a traditional print journalist. From her website resume you can see her career is more internet than mosta y'all.

I Like Annalee, This is not one of her better columns, but she has potential.
posted by pekar wood at 9:25 PM on March 1, 2002

Whatever is right.
posted by adampsyche at 9:44 PM on March 1, 2002

The value of Blogs when it comes to news is the "washing machine" effect...I've learned more about what is accurate and inaccurate about stories from traditional sources from reading blogs that interpret and sift through the information. If anything, traditional news sources should be finding more and more pressure to be accurate, since fact-checking through weblogs is becoming such a fast and valuable service.
posted by willrich at 4:38 AM on March 2, 2002

I wonder about the "editor" aspect of blogging. I have a couple people who read my site who don't really follow political news who say they mostly read my site to get that info. Now my site exists under zero pretense of being "fair and balanced" so on one hand I like the idea of people tuning into my POV, but on the other hand I don't want that responsibility. I guess I just provide the ingredients and its mix as you will. But it makes me wonder about the biases, etc. among more influential bloggers.
posted by owillis at 4:44 AM on March 2, 2002

I agree with jonmc about the better analogy between blogs and the op-ed page, and I think the market does as well; after all, Andrew Sullivan (to take one example) isn't exactly known for his reportage. He's a commentator. So are Matt, and Ev, and Jason, and Meg, etc etc etc. Which is why, as owillis pointed out, you need to think about the biases of whatever news sources you're looking to for information.

Not for nothing, but journalism is work—making sure you get as many sides of the story as you possibly can, getting facts correct. And while the importance of that work may be denigrated in these times of Knight-Ridder and Gannett wanting to forever fatten profit margins, it is still what makes the best journalism something that is valuable to the public. The public. Not you and your friends, or people who are in your industry, or people who like the same bands you do. Way back in the day, before the media mergers and Murdoch hit the scene, the journalism industry was called a "public trust." Whether this is still true today is up in the air, although I do think that the failings are more at the executive level than the level of reporters, etc.

But adding more unreported noise (and if blogs suddenly didn't have traditional journalism to glom off of, that's all that would be left) to the news churn isn't going to help reduce information clutter. It's absolutely damaging, only serving to further polarize real events and trends in peoples' lives from what's being reported.

It really bugs me how so many of the bloggers who are claimng "this is journalism!" live, work, and play in the Internet sector. I want to ask them all this question that's pretty essential to what journallism is, which many people seem to be missing (and that's probably also an aftereffect of focus-grouped journalism, an endless parade of self-serving media memoirs, and 'news for you'): If you had to write about something outside of your immediate sphere, would you be able to do so?

Now, my snide answer to this question would be "no, have you sifted through 98% of personal web sites (not just blogs—please, people, spare me your blog piety, it's so '00) lately?"—but the answer I'd come up with after a little bit of reasoned thought would be the same. Journalism is a hell of a lot more than looking out your window and saying "oh, hey, it's sunny today." And while I don't doubt that there are experts on topics that are clumsily covered by the mainstream media who are out there and blogging away happily, for every one of those you have ninety window-lookers.
posted by maura at 5:52 AM on March 2, 2002

I think that blogging does and will continue to play an important role in reporting micro-subjects. The End of Free is a classic example of that.

Blogging can also be influencial....a link on Media News ensures that a story reaches a large number of editors, journalists etc. and in turn can help spread a particular opinion point of view.

What blogging has yet to really become is a medium for first hand reporting, and for many obvious reasons, apart from on the odd occasion, it never will. Blogging does have a role, but it is not a direct threat to journalists in the way described in that article.
posted by RobertLoch at 8:12 AM on March 2, 2002

As a reporter and blogger, I'd say that the relationship between the two is now and can continue to be symbiotic. Reporters, especially in the tech community, should read them for tips, insights and story ideas. They provide an instant audience for feedback, too, potentially widening the circle of sources. That's always a good thing, and in this way blogs can help shape and improve coverage. The fear that blogs will scoop print media because of the time element seems to be a familiar one - TV can do much the same, and that hasn't led to the demise of print scoops.
posted by thescoop at 10:58 AM on March 2, 2002

What blogging has yet to really become is a medium for first hand reporting, and for many obvious reasons, apart from on the odd occasion, it never will. Blogging does have a role, but it is not a direct threat to journalists in the way described in that article.

Exactly, newspapers pay for more than newsprint, they pay the salaries of hard working reporters who do more than just sit and write. They go out and get the story, until bloggers can become reporters (and for many reasons that won't happen including the fact that most bloggers won't go to Pakistan and risk their lives like Daniel Pearl for a story) news and journalists for all their faults will be a necessary part of getting a story out into the public space that isn't ONLY interested party spin.

The first blogger to enter a warzone and report, leaving their job and family for days at a time, will be my personal hero.
posted by zebra_monkey at 10:07 AM on March 4, 2002

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