Journalism vs. blogging: the present and the future

With the rise of online media, from YouTube to Facebook, WordPress to the New York Times, journalism has expanded over the course of the last decade into a new era. "Journalism" may not be guaranteed work all of the time, but it is most certainly in my eyes one of the main focuses of future careers for students.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

With the rise of online media, from YouTube to Facebook, WordPress to the New York Times, journalism has expanded over the course of the last decade into a new era. "Journalism" may not be guaranteed work all of the time, but it is most certainly in my eyes one of the main focuses of future careers for students.

Dr. Vince Miller, lecturer in sociology, spoke to me about journalism and blogging. He teaches where I study, at the University of Kent, researching concepts of social networking, blogging and new-age media. Of all the people I could have spoken to, I trust his knowledge as one of the most influential thinkers in his field.

His latest journal article is available online to those with Athens, Shibboleth, SAGE or e-journal access, and for those without, an abstract of the text can be found here.

Citizen journalism hit the news when it was used against China to rebel against the strict regime of government. What is the difference between "blogging activist" and "citizen journalist"?

Well, I think that citizen journalism is a much broader topic of 'non-professionals' engaging in information collection, distribution and dissemination. This includes, for example, the Indy media movement and I suppose really could have even included aspects of 'community' media or journalism (as long as it was not done by professionals). I guess that 'blogging activism' would be one example of citizen journalism, but the two are not synonymous. Use of traditional websites, e-mail, chat rooms and forums could be seen as forms of citizen journalism outside blogging as well.

With hundreds of blogging websites available, can blogging and online journalism be the death of the good old fashioned newspaper journalism? 

A couple of years ago, Andrew Keen wrote a book called 'The Cult of the Amateur', in which he argued that the user-generated content of the internet, through things like blogging, YouTube and the like, were having a destructive influence on our culture by undermining what is true and false, undermining any notions of quality (or quality control), and blurring distinctions between fact, fiction, logic and opinion, the noteworthy and the banal.

I think to a certain extent he has a point. But it is hard to make that point without sounding elitist or like some sort of cultural conservative. But I seem to remember Jack White of the White Stripes, making a similar point once in an interview, when he was talking about the difference between music journalist reviewing albums (to use and old fashioned term), versus bloggers reviewing albums. He said that he found amateur reviews annoying because most of them had very little overall knowledge of music, and therefore could only really state their opinion within the narrow contexts of their tastes (for example 'the new White Stripes album does not rock as hard as the last one'). At least with a music journalist, you can assume that he/she has a large music collection, and some overall sense of where music has come from, and where it is going.

So it is more of an 'informed' opinion than some 15 year old kid writing on a blog. To your question, I suppose it is not necessarily the 'death' of old-fashioned journalism, but perhaps a transformation in three ways:

  1. A decline in the authority of the journalist as holding a superior or 'well informed' position vis-à-vis anyone else.
  2. A transformation in terms of where 'old-fashioned' journalism gets its stories and information from. A good example of that is the Clinton/Lewinski scandal, which originated from the Drudge Report; at the time a pretty disreputable gossip page.
  3. It reflects a fundamental shift from mass media to niche media. Within journalism, this means that instead of everyone being forced to watch a narrow number of news sources for a narrow selection of stories deemed significant. People can now seek out the news that they want to hear, from the sources they want to hear from. This leads to a much more Balkanised public sphere as people seek out what they want to hear, and blogger/journalists increasingly preach to the converted.For example, right wing nationalist bloggers comb the Internet for any stories related to certain ethnic minorities (not always the case, but as a generalisation) and feed them to a specific audience who are deliberately looking to confirm their prejudices. Similarly, anti-EU bloggers will publish any anti-EU story or rumour to support their cause without any desire for verification, explicitly for the purposes of motivating their political audience.

As a side note, strangely from my experiences on the web, I get the feeling that the lack of verification and professional obligation in blogging has further undermined the legitimacy of mainstream media journalists. As now, in my experience, many people who frequent more user-generated sources for news (both left and right leaning) now see mainstream media as untrustworthy and biased, but fail to recognise that in their own sources are similar, if not more so (I suppose because those sources speak to their prejudices more). This, however is my own opinion based on my experiences, and not to be considered a real academic argument...


What, if any, is the difference between a journalist and a blogger? 

A journalist (ideally) has a professional responsibility to verify information, check sources, print 'facts' (as best as they can be defined), portray the story from different viewpoints, and at least have a pretence of being 'objective' (although objectivity in news is not really a burden in Britain, where biases are obvious and held up for everyone to see). To this end, what journalists write has gone through some sort of peer or editorial review process.

Bloggers, by contrast, have no such professional responsibility or obligation. They can, within certain legal limits, print what they want without any obligation to verify sources or separate fact from opinion. The only obligation they have (if even that), is to maintain their audience. I also think that blogging revolves around a certain intimacy between the writer and audience in a way that is different from mass journalism.

Microblogging has really taken off with services like and including Twitter. If blogging replaces newspaper journalism, can microblogging be another successor, or is quality better than quantity? 

Microblogging is a bit of a different case, I think, and builds much more on this idea of intimacy with the audience and among the audience. Barack Obama certainly used this well on his campaign (I was following him on Twitter). I don't think that microblogging will be the next step from blogging, but more of an offshoot, and more related to social networking than blogging.

Feel free to post your thoughts, comments, ideas, theories and experience; the more the merrier.

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