Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Writing and conversation

Every few weeks or so, someone writes something claiming that the blogging phenomenon is something other than what it appears to be.
The most recent of these pieces is from Ad Age's Simon Dumenco, who argues that there is "no such thing as blogging. There is no such thing as a blogger. Blogging is just writing -- writing using a particularly efficient type of publishing technology."

I understand what Dumenco is saying. And I agree with him....to a point.
When I meet with journalists and publishers who are less than enthusiastic about new media, I tend to say things much like Dumenco is saying.
"Blogging," I say, "is first and foremost about a type of software. It's about inexpensive, easy-to-use, content-management systems." Furthermore, I say, blogging software will replace the publishing software that you use now. Or, as Dumenco says, existing content-management systems "will be phased out and everyone publishing online will be using some form of what’s now commonly thought of as blogging software."

But when I speak with journalists and publishers who are more open-minded than average, I take a different approach.
"Blogging," I say, "represents a fundamental cultural shift in media. Something has changed in how people approach content. The audience has found its voice. News consumers insist upon the option of participating in the news-gathering process. And there's no going back." Furthermore, I say, the fundamental traits of blogging -- feedback functions, audience participation, citizen journalism, transparency, external links, rapid publishing -- make for better journalism. And much of what we as journalists do in the future will be similar to what is now commonly thought of as blogging.

And therein lies my concern. When someone like Dumenco says that blogging is just writing, that whether you are reporting for a mainstream publication or publishing a blog, the "underlying creative/media function remains exactly the same," I wince.
Because for every journalist I meet who is excited by the culture of blogging, I find 10 who don't have a clue what that culture is. For every reporter I meet who likes the idea of public conversation, agnostic links and mash-ups. I meet 10 who think they can say everything there is to say.

Blogging isn't just writing. It is more. It is writing and conversation. And those two things combined make for better journalism than either could alone.

For more on the difference between writing and blogging, check out this post by Steve Rubel.
For more on the lessons that blogging has for journalists, read this earlier post of mine.

tags: , , , , , , conversational media

4 comments:

  1. Hi, Paul

    Good post. You wrote: "the fundamental traits of blogging -- feedback functions, audience participation, citizen journalism, transparency, external links, rapid publishing -- make for better journalism. And much of what we as journalists do in the future will be similar to what is now commonly thought of as blogging."

    Yeah, I agree.

    And that scares the pants off most journalists.

    This is not going to be an easy or smooth transition.

    - Amy Gahran
    Contentious.com
    IReporter.org
    RightConversation.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Amy,
    It won't be easy or smooth. And that disappoints me. I used to think of my fellow journalists as inquisitive, adventurous and dedicated to the craft. But in recent months...as citizen journalism has grown bigger and as newsroom budgets have grown tighter...I've run into a slew of close-minded and fearful people in the business.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Paul,

    Although I agree with you on the impact of citizen journalism, I disagree on the general notion that blogging somehow leads to "better" reporting.

    If you look at the blogosphere, majority of the blogs are regarding personal issues (like my own)with little or no relevance to others. The blogs with important relevant issues are few and are written once in a while and they often get lost in the clutter.

    Journalism I guess requires a more disciplined approach than mere fact reporting or expressing an opinion.

    It will be a long while before blogging really starts making a real valuable impact. There is potential in the movement, but maturity is still a while away.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Girish,
    I have to disagree. Although the influence of blogs pales when compared with the influence of newspapers, that doesn't change the fact that the culture of blogging -- transparancy, conversation -- makes for better reporting.
    What I tell reporters is that the easiest way to get better at what you do is to add a feedback function to your article pages. You'll learn quickly what you get right, what you get wrong, what you have missed, etc.
    In fact, I would argue that the two best local newspapers in America are in Greensboro, NC, and Lawrence, KS. And those papers have adopted the style and tools of the blogosphere. And part of the charm of CMO magazine -- the best B2B publication in the U.S. -- was that it too had learned the lessons of the blogging world.

    ReplyDelete

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.