Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Asking journalists about bloggers

I like to ask B2B journalists about the bloggers on their beat. It's the sort of question that gives me information that the person answering doesn't realize he's providing.
For example, I still run into folks who say things like "I don't really get blogging" and "my teenaged nephew has a blog" and "I don't read those things." And that tells me that the person giving the answer is slow to sense change and lacking in curiosity.
And people without an inquisitive nature shouldn't be journalists.

Then there are the folks who spew venom and confusion when they answer the question. They often don't know anyone who blogs about the industry they cover. But they do have a vague notion of someone who once wrote something terrible about someone on a blog. They are still very upset by this. They are also usually still very upset by talk radio. And they will link them in their answer to my question. They often launch into a tirade about the state of journalism. They take a very long time to answer my very simple question and will eventually use the word "amateurs" to describe bloggers and use the word "objectivity" to describe their own work.
What they tell me with their answers is that they are overly emotional and have difficulty with reason. In other words, they cannot be objective.
And people who aren't self-aware shouldn't be journalists.

Then there is everyone else. They give clear and concise answers to my question. They know a few folks who blog on their beats. They like some of them. They dislike others. Sometimes they are jealous of a blogger's "freedom" in writing style, use of anonymous sources, etc. Sometimes they have blogs of their own. Sometimes they post comments on the blogs on their beats. Sometimes they link to the blogs on their beat. Always they are aware of what the bloggers are doing because they try to be aware of everything on their beats.
And what these people tell me with their answers is this: We are journalists.
And I love those people.
The Wall Street Journal has a piece today on the most influential bloggers in a number of U.S. industries. Take a look. Is there anyone on the list that you should be reading but aren't? A few of my regular reads are on the list -- Curbed (because I'm a New Yorker who is looking for a new apartment) and Adrants.

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  1. Hey, Paul. You'll be happy to know that during the panel on blogging at the ABM conference I'm attending, Tony Silber, editor & publisher of Folio:, showed several blogs he looks at regularly. One of the slides he showed and mentioned was your blog.

  2. Hi Rex,
    That's fabulous. Thanks for letting me know.
    And Tony, if you're reading this, thanks!

  3. Hey, Paul--Yes, I'm reading, just as I said I do! Here's one reaction that maybe you or Rex or David Shaw would like to take a shot at: My sense from talking to some people about my panel is that for them, it's not a lack of understanding, it's a lack of time and a lack of perceived value. One CEO said to me, "I have a top editor doing two e-mail newsletters a week. Why would I take him off that just to let him ramble on on a blog?"

    Others I spoke to agreed in varying degrees, saying that the time necessary for a skilled journalist to blog--as opposed to writing and reporting in more more traditional ways for more traditional formats--is not worth it.

    It came down to the trade-off, at least for some of those I spoke to: What should I STOP doing so that my limited staff can blog?

    Just some feedback. By the way, these are people who completely understand Rex's point that if you're doing your job as a journalist correctly, blogging naturally flows from that. They just don't agree. My guess: This applies to a majority of the CEOs/top managers in the room yesterday.

  4. Hi Tony,
    I'll take a shot at the question, but my answer may not be what a lot of CEOs or journalists want to hear.
    First, if your heart is truly in journalism, than blogging flows from that easily. Perhaps that's what Rex was getting at. But I believe that a skilled reporter should be able to flow easily into a blog. It's not very time consuming at all.
    Second, when I hear people say that they don't have the time to blog, what they are saying is that they don't have any time left in their day for anything. And more often than not, I find such people are just poor at managing time. In other words, the people who tell me that they are too busy to take on more work are usually the people who don't seem to be doing much work now. They need a time-management course. And publishers should provide such courses whenever possible.
    But third, there are times when the entire staff is truly pushed to the max, when there is no room left in the schedule for additional work, when everyone is doing everything they can. And in those cases the folks in charge need to come up with some cash for additional staff if they want additional products (or offer some more money to existing staffers to do new products on their own time.)
    However, let me be clear -- I'm not saying that every publication needs a blog. Even if half of your staff has free time every day, a blog may not be right for your publication. More importantly, if a staff is stretched so thin that folks are ready to break, then launching any additional product is not a good idea.
    What I am saying, however, is that every journalist does need to make every existing product more bloglike. Journalists must learn to link. They need to open comment functions on their stories and engage in conversation with their readers. They need to learn some basic multimedia skills.
    And that's not taking on more work -- that's learning to do the things they should have learned years ago. I have no sympathy for someone who says he can't take the time to learn a little html, a little photo editing and some basic video skills. Those are BASIC skills today. And no publisher should feel badly about dumping journalists who don't have basic skills.