I missed this item published just before Christmas: Steve Outing follows up his advice for journalists with advice for bloggers, i.e. what bloggers can learn from journalists.
His list brings up an old question: Is blogging journalism? Here’s another: Should it be journalism? Or: Can it be journalism?
I think it’s clear that blogging may be used by/for journalism–from mining bloggers as sources of information to offering the public a level of interactivity unknown until now (open-source journalism).
What’s interesting about Outing’s list is that it is a curious mix of excellent advice and what I take to be a curious desire to see bloggers become more like journalists. Bloggers blog. Journalists report. These are different things although there are many areas in which the two cross paths and share goals.
His good advice:
1. Do more original reporting.
2. Ask before you attack.
3. Be accurate.
I think these are self-explanatory.
His bad advice:
1. Find an editor.
2. Find a code of ethics.
3. Consider journalistic style.
As I have said before, what separates blogging from journalism for me is the role of editor–a trained, experienced editor. Not just anyone good at rooting out stylistic errors will do. Where are bloggers to find such people? Further, is finding and employing them worth turning the dynamism of blogging into the hard slog of (good) journalism. The beauty of blogging is that for some bloggers the answer may be “yes.” Blogging is what the individual blogger makes it.
To be effective, a code of ethics requires an institution of some sort (a bunch of people agreeing to it creates an institution). I admire all attempts to establish propriety. But such attempts are attempted by someone or some institution. Since there is no institution at this point, that leaves the writing of a code to someone(s). Who? Why them? …and a dozen other like questions. Here’s a sample developed from the code of ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists.
The basic news writing style developed for specific historical and technological reasons. This is a new era. The internet is a new technology. To suggest that bloggers write snappy headlines or inverted pyramid style is, well, a bit silly. This is old-school (rhetorical) thinking. The rhetoric of this style is exactly the one-way communication from those who know to those who don’t paradigm that interactivity challenges. Besides, don’t you enjoy the individuality of good blog writing?