For an upcoming Q feature on blogging and ethics in the Raleigh News & Observer, I was asked to write a short piece about how blogging improves the accountability of journalists. This is a topic that has already generated several critical books and web sites, but it seemed like a new idea to the Q editor so I tried to keep it simple.
I wrote more than the 250 words requested, so here it is in its full, unedited glory:
Although there is some natural antagonism between journalists who get paid to report and bloggers who thrive on criticizing them, there is actually incredible synergy between these two groups, and they do more to support and improve each other than they may realize.
Political and issue-oriented blogging is made possible largely by the work of professional journalists and researchers. While bloggers tend to be quite discriminating in our choice of media, we often do rely on local and national newspapers as well as specialized outlets for our sources of information.
But of course we don’t always agree with what we read in the mainstream media, and as bloggers we have a platform as well as an obligation to say so. This where I believe that journalists can benefit from blogs – if they are willing to move past the binary “us vs. them” mentality. While you might not always agree with bloggers’ media critiques, I think we can all agree that greater accountability for journalists is an important goal and increasingly important in these duplicitous times.
I write from personal experience or from what I have read in trusted sources (including select news media and blogs). I don’t purport to be a journalist, and I don’t claim to do that kind of research. The great thing about blogs is that if we get something wrong, commenters can say so right on the same page as the original story, and authors can discuss why they wrote what they did.
For example, on OrangePolitics we may read a story and be able to fill in more perspectives than were shared in the story as we did with a recent article about building heights in downtown Chapel Hill. Sometimes we let reporters know about pressing community issues that might not have otherwise merited mainstream coverage such as the community outrage at the ban on dancing at Carr Mill Mall. And very often we find that reporters are using the dialogue on our site as a source for direct quotations in their stories.
In most cases we’re happy to help journalists do their jobs better, but bloggers also demand respect for what we do, which is add authentic personal perspectives to the public debate on the issues of our time.
I’ll add a link if/when this is actually published, probably Sunday.