Thursday, October 20, 2011

Blogger vs. Journalist. What is the difference?

Ever since I started blogging about the reality TV shows, movies and pilots filming around town I have, on occasion, taken some flack for my perceived lack of journalistic standards. Now, keep in mind that these accusations have come about from the people I am writing about who are sometimes pissed that I called them out about doing something silly or stupid. Oh, they love ya when your blowing sunshine up their ass, but point out their (very public) feud with a costar and they go ballistic! It's sort of to be expected, when you choose to write about people instead of topics.  But it's had me thinking... what is the difference between a journalist and a blogger? And do I need to be acing like a "real journalist"?

Blogging is not a regulated industry because (for the most part) we don’t get paid. 99.9% of bloggers, even if they do get occasionally paid, aren't making a living at blogging. It's a hobby.  A labor of love.

Why should I follow rules when I’m not on a contract? And where are these rules anyway? And who wrote them? That’s like someone telling you there are rules about how you clean your house that MUST be followed.

Chris Bowers says blog posts are alive in ways that posts in other mediums simply are not, becasue hey are online discussions. The only reason you should be mad at a blogger for posting inaccurate information is if that person refuses to correct the story once they are presented facts to the contrary, or if that person did not even try to figure out the facts before publication. The only reason you should be mad at a blogger for not seeking a response from the subject of a post before publication is if that blogger refuses to listen to any comments or responses after the post has already been made.  Personally, I love a healthy debate.

Those are two critical aspects of traditional journalistic standards that are simply handled in more interactive, open process ways in the blogosphere than they are in other mediums. And if certain wags refuse to recognize this, or if they refuse to cut bloggers slack in this regard considering the enormous pressures many of us are under to create new content, then they are either forgetful, or simply unaware of, the way the medium works. Or, they are just being jerks.

When Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks and a figure in the news, wants to speak to fans, players or the community, he doesn’t do it through the reporters who cover the Mavs. He puts the word out at his weblog.

For the beat writers who cover the team this is a loss; Cuban hardly deals with them anymore. The balance of power has shifted from journalist to what was once considered "the source". Cuban is one smart cookie. He has removed the middle man to interpret his voice and just speaks for himself.

Rebecca Blood, author of the Weblog Handbook showed how difficult it was to identify journalism exclusively with journalists. If we focus on practices that meet a certain standard, she said, then it is easy to tell who is who:
When a blogger writes up daily accounts of an international conference, that is journalism. When a magazine reporter repurposes a press release without checking facts or talking to additional sources, that is not. When a blogger interviews an author about their new book, that is journalism. When an opinion columnist manipulates facts in order to create a false impression, that is not. When a blogger searches the existing record of fact and discovers that a public figure’s claim is untrue, that is journalism. When a reporter repeats a politician’s assertions without verifying whether they are true, that is not.
Instead of wrestling with blogging’s actual potential in journalism, people have tended to fight about bloggers’ credentials as journalists. This is a matter of far less importance, although I would never say “credentials don’t matter.”

The lines between journalism and blogging seem to not be black and white but shades of gray. I view blogging as an online conversation. Thoughtful but more casual.  My stories might be one-sided at times, but that's because I am giving you my opinion on a subject.

I am not bound by journalistic ethics to be unbiased and just present the facts. And in my mind, that's the biggest difference between being a blogger and a "real journalist".  And if you don't want my opinion, don't read my blog.  I feel like I make an effort to be thoughtful and have an educated opinion.

I am a Google Ninja Master at scouring the internet for news, tweets, posts and comments to uncover bits of hidden gems.  I'm not just receiving one person's text or email about something and heading off to the races, mindlessly blogging away.  But,  I don't wait for permission from the subject to give you my opinion on a bit of gossip either.  Who do you trust? A tweet from a person who actually saw something happen or an official statement from a Publicist who's paid to protect that person's ass? I'm just sayin'.

I allow  - and encourage - comments on my site to give readers a forum for conversation and debate. I'm not writing this stuff to hear myself think.  I want to hear from you on the topics I cover.  So, see that comment box under this article? That's for you to leave a public comment on this public post and let me know if you think I'm right or wrong.   Last time I checked, I was still living in America, where freedom of speech is guaranteed to me. It's guaranteed to you to.  Use it!