One of the (many) motivations for writing the epic post about New Journalism last week was to try to end once for all the entire genre of discussing the “bloggers vs. journalists” trope.
I have collected the responses to the piece here and it is quite flattering that the post got hat-tips from people who have studied the topic for a long time, like Ed Cone, Kirk Ross, Michael Tobis, Henry Gee, Dave Winer and Dan Conover, among others.
My SciBling Dave Dobbs wrote a very good post (recommended) in reply – you need to go and read it.
One of Dave’s questions was, to paraphrase, why are there still stories that bloggers ignore?
Short answer – blogging is young and there are not enough bloggers out there with interest and expertise in every topic imaginable. His example of PTSD, while superficially interesting to me, was not exciting enough, or “up my alley” enough, or “within my realm of expertise” enough, for me to do any digging or blogging of my own.
Perhaps at this time in history, there was just not sufficient number of bloggers who know much and care about this topic. But in 10 years or 20 years, when journalism online, including citizen journalism online, becomes a norm, when instead of 1% of people of the world making content online, it is 50% or 80%, then yes, every topic will have sufficient numbers of people with interest and expertise in it to make a splash.
But something in Dave’s post prompted both Jay Rosen and myself to post comments there – the false dichotomy between ‘journalists’ and ‘bloggers’ snuck into Dave’s post. This is, roughly (somewhat expanded and edited from there) what I wrote:
This is an excellent response. I want to follow up on what Jay above wrote about ‘Replacenicks’, i.e., people who warn about the impending doom of ‘newspapers being replaced by blogs’.
This is the matter of framing. I know science bloggers are allergic to the F word, but if you could just for a moment forget Matt Nisbet and his erroneous and dangerous use of the term, and remember Lakoff’s (in ‘Moral Politics’ book) understanding of the phenomenon, as in “eliciting a particular frame of mind in the audience’, then you can try to understand what I am getting at here.
When you say “newspapers will (or will not) be replaced by blogs”, you invoke two demonstrably erroneous frames in readers’ minds:
a) that “newspapers = journalism”, and
b) that “blogs = inane chatter”.
Journalism is medium-neutral. Not just in newspapers. Journalism can and does happen on paper, over radio waves, on TV and online. A lot of other stuff also has its place on all those communication channels as well.
The phrase also elicits the ‘opposition’ frame of mind – there are two terms and they are presented as mutually exclusive and opposite from each other. In other words, journalism is presented as exact opposite and fierce competitor of blogs and vice versa.
This ‘opposition’ frame, by defining newspapers as equating journalism, then leaves only the non-journalistic stuff to the term “blogs”. Thus, the word “blog” in the phrase automatically reminds people of inane navel-gazing, teenage angst, copy-and-paste news and LOLcats found on so many blogs.
But, remember that a blog is software, not a style. Thus the first thought upon hearing the word “blog” in the context of journalism should be TPM, HuffPo, Firedoglake, etc., not Cute Overload.
Guess who planted that framing? The journalistic curmudgeons like Keen, Henry, Mulshine at al, in their endless Luddite op-eds railing against the internet.
So, we need to quit using that ridiculous phrase ‘newspapers being replaced by blogs’ and try to engender much more meaningful discussions by using an alternative framing, e.g., something along the lines of “most paper will be replaced by Web”. Journalism will continue to happen, but it will be less and less on paper and more and more online.
It is not a fight between journalism and blogging, but a technological revolution in which journalism is moving from print to Web.
Switching to a new medium will inevitably change the way journalism is done in many ways – the questions and problems of speed/timeliness, the pre-publication vs. post-publication filters, the echo-chamber formation, the ethics, the privacy concerns, the question of expertise, the he-said-she-said format, the linking to sources and documentation, the multi-media approach, the length constraints of articles, the (in)formality of language, etc. All of those will have to be assessed and experimented with until we settle into a new way of doing journalism right.
The journalistic workflow, i.e., the day-to-day methodology of doing journalism, will inevitably have to change with the new times and the new medium.
Of course, much of the noise on this topic comes from the job uncertainty of today’s journalism – the change in the medium is a real threat to jobs and livelihoods of journalists, as internet requires a smaller total number of paid professionals than newspapers do, thus so much talk about ‘business models’. This is the part that, frankly, interests me the least as I am not personally affected, while I am excited about being the witness of a technological revolution and student of the way this revolution will alter the society.