There’s been a recent flare-up in BlogSpace regarding the evergreen question of whether weblogging is or can be journalism. I do try to avoid excess navel-gazing, but there are so many otherwise smart people spinning their wheels on the subject, that I feel like I have to weigh in briefly.
The short version:
Don’t confuse the tool with the result. Is blogging journalism? It can be, if the people committing journalism use weblogs.
Weblogs are tools. What people do with those tools is up to them. Weblogs themselves are no more journalism than compilers are programming or automobiles are commuting.
Tool. Function. Result. They’re different. Why is that so hard to understand?
(For newcomers to this site, I have some small expertise in the area of journalism and technology.)
One thing that we know weblogging isn’t (except in a vanishingly small number of cases) is a paying gig, which leads to my next point.
There’s been some foaming in the last couple of days about the Pulitzers, which were announced yesterday. The question has arisen: will Pulitzer-level journalism ever come out of a weblog?
Sure. Why not? But first, the business case of weblogs has to be established. Journalism costs money and time — and excellent, in-depth journalism takes lots of both. The resources required to cover a state-wide wildfire, or a major corporation covering up an unsafe workplace, or events in a 40-year-old war half a world away, are more than considerable.
You want this kind of journalism coming out of the world of weblogs? Excellent. Figure out a way to make it pay for journalists and the businessmen who support them, and only then will you see serious, top-flight, finished-work reportage.
Weblogs allow a different kind of storytelling than we’ve seen before, just as radio and television tell stories differently than newspapers. That’s going to be exciting to see happen. Asking whether weblogging is journalism is the wrong question. The right question is asking how weblogging can be used to tell news in a different and, (one hopes) more informative way than ever before.
For more reading on this, check out Jay Rosen’s weblog. He’s a media critic and j-school professor at NYU, and appears to have a pretty good, nuanced handle on the question.