Moving past the “blogs versus journalism” debate

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.

5 thoughts on “Moving past the “blogs versus journalism” debate

  1. Ruby,

    Great to share the pages of the N&O with you today. Nice contribution, and thanks for being such a good role model for those of us who want to use our online efforts to better our communities.

  2. More blogger reactions… Paul sums me up pretty well:

    Ruby Sinreich wants reporters to credit bloggers when they take bits from the blogs. This is not a new complaint. OP is a rich source for local reporters who for some reason don’t think that OPers care if their community gets the credit. Note from Ruby: We do care.

    And Bora notes that Q omitted some of the most popular bloggers in the Triangle. He’s probably correct if you look at blogs by daily traffic. And it certainly would have helped to elevate the stature of bloggers by noting what large and devoted followings they have around the world.

    I could argue that they chose blogs that are more influential locally, but the simple fact is that the N&O knows very little about blogs and blogging (despite meekly attempting to do it for the past year). As I said at the very top of this post, they have stuck a naive toe in the fray without seeming to have any context on the vast discussion that has been going on for years.

    It’s really not that hard, folks. You don’t have to let go of your typewriters (but it might help to loosen your grip), but you do have to start reading some blogs! If you can’t handle the low standards (ha) of everyday, unprofessional bloggers, just start with your colleagues like Ed Cone and Jay Rosen.

    And please remember, we don’t want your jobs, we just want you to do them better!

  3. I think you masterfully conracted years of discussion into a short article. Why can’t they see the obvious: they had you and Anton and others right there at their mercy and they did not think of the brilliant idea to ASK YOU? You could have told them what questions are important, what debates are pertinent, what local blogs are important and much, much more, if it only occured to them that YOU are the experts to ask such things. It feels like they relied only on their own limited understanding of blogs and the blogosphere.

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