Thursday, February 18, 2010

89% of journalists use blogs in their research: report

The seemingly typical view of the independent blogosphere by mainstream media journalists is one of a fantasyland where leeches in their bathrobes take potshots from the peanut gallery at those who do the hard work of journalism.

On one hand, I think there's an element of truth to this stereotype. I think this is what the blogosphere used to be almost exclusively, and still is to some extent. But this bugs me because it doesn't recognize how the blogosphere has changed in the last few years, how much more nuanced it's become.

For example, Adirondack Almanack* used to be just the political and history writings of a single person; a lot like mine but with an Adirondacks' focus. Now, the journal offers pieces on a stunning variety of topics by 15 different individuals... from ski videos to activity ideas to photography to nature reporting and, yes, history and politics. The Almanack always interested me as a political and history junkie, but its increasing breadth makes it a lot better. It's now a news and information source, not just a blog.

(*-disclosure: I recently became a regular contributor to the Almanack)

There's a lot of good stuff out there in the blogosphere. A fair bit of good commentary. Not a ton of, but some decent original journalism. And yes, there's still a lot of crap.

The blogosphere represents the democratization of the media. Because democracy is a lot messier than plutocracy, this is not a complete panacea. There are certainly issues, especially pertaining to anonymity, ethics and standards. There are complications in the evolution of any medium; the idea of objective journalism is relatively recent in the overall history of newspapers.

It's not a panacea but it is an improvement. This democratization also means that points of view, especially non-elite ones, previously excluded or given short shrift in the mainstream media now have voice.

The overgeneralization is tantamount treating The Washington Post, The New York Post and The Saratogian the same just because they are all fall within the realm of the daily newspaper. At the end of the day, the credibility of blogs should be determined in an identical manner to the credibility of newspapers and other media outlet: on a case-by-case analysis of a blog's entire body of work. Lazy generalizations is a lot easier, but no one said being serious wasn't hard work.

Because of this generalized scorn, I was intrigued to read the findings of researchers at George Washington University.

Among the journalists surveyed, 89% said they turn to blogs for story research, 65% to social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, and 52% to microblogging services such as Twitter. The survey also found that 61% use Wikipedia, the popular online encyclopedia.

The figure of 89% of journalists turning to blogs for story research turns on its head the stereotype that the relationship the blogosphere and mainstream media journalism is one-sided, with the former leeching off the later.

Note: Tomorrow, I will have a piece explaining the standards I try to use in this blog.

1 comment:

Nick Reisman said...

Brian,

Interesting stuff. Journalists love having a variety of tools at their disposal and blogs are just one of them.

I don't begrudge bloggers for linking to stories or riffing off the work of reporters. In fact, it's actually an ego boost when someone runs with a story I've written. Also, blogs add to the conversation we wouldn't otherwise have, allowing us to take the temperature of the room or the community.

However -- and this is a super generalization -- I think a lot of journalists dislike it when blogs don't follow the conventions of the craft; namely multiple sourced stories, basic fairness and yes, that elusvive unicorn known as objectivity.

I don't necessarily agree with those complaints.. Many of the blogs I follow -- from Gawker to All Over Albany and the local ones like yours and Adirondack Almanac skew toward the professionally written.

My biggest problem with blogs (and online comment boards in general) is the anonymous hit and runs people make. I can take criticism, just sign your damn name to the complaint.