Is blogging journalism?

The most contentious argument put forward at last night’s debate, Science in the Media: rude or ailing health?, was not about specifically about science, but focussed on the credibility of blogging.

Science Media Centre’s Fiona Fox asserted that blogging is not journalism – a comment which raised a few eyebrows in City University’s lecture theatre, where the debate was being held.

Quite rightly, The Economist’s Natasha Loder pointed out that blogging is a platform akin to television. Therefore, if somebody takes the time to investigate a story using journalistic skills and then publishes their findings on a blog, that blog is journalism.

But one audience member argued that many blogs were bias or not thoroughly investigated pieces of journalism, so how can the reader judge the credibility of a blog they are reading?

Even award-winning blogger Ed Yong said he has not always treated his blog stories with the same degree of scrutiny that he would an article he writes for a magazine – i.e. making a few calls to answer any lingering questions from a release. But he also argued that hyperlinks strengthen the validity of online articles because the reader can trace the roots of the story through links.

Like Yong, I don’t tend to investigate my blog stories with the same degree of scrutiny as I would in the newsroom and I was pleased to hear I wasn’t alone in feeling guilty about it. Perhaps it is due to the personal nature of a blog — my audience is mainly me.

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2 Comments

Filed under Online Journalism Lectures, Opinion

2 responses to “Is blogging journalism?

  1. Actually, that’s slightly different to what I said. I’d scrutinise stories for MSM and my blog to exactly the same degree, with the same care and attention for detail. And I have, to this date, never written anything from a press release. If I had lingering questions from *a paper*, I’d do my own research or abandon the piece.

    What I meant was that I never used to interview people (either the scientist in question or other researchers) for blog pieces. This only mattered in situations where the paper was a bit controversial and a second opinion (not necessarily a contradicting one, just a different one) would have been useful. That being said, I detest the practice of getting mandatory quotes from people for any mainstream news reports. In many cases, if I understand the paper completely and I’m aware of any caveats etc. myself, then asking for quotes is just getting someone else to repeat what I’ve already said. It’s an approach that lacks value if you yourself have specialist knowledge.

    What I currently do on my blog is, I think, a happy medium. Most of my pieces I write myself with the usual level of scrutiny and without any interviews or outside quotes. For some of them, I get a few bits from the researchers about the process of actually doing the research or the implications. For controversial topics, I get other people to chime in. Quotes, at the end of the day, are merely a tool for a journalist. They should be used selectively.

  2. Jess Shankleman

    Thanks for clarifying your viewpoint Ed – perhaps I used the term “release” too loosely as a press release and a research paper are two very different creatures.

    Even so, as a journalist, there is rarely a case when I don’t have more questions about something that has been published, so talking to a source can flesh out my understanding and always helps me write a sharper story. I also find that following up a story by talking to people can lead me to another story – which is always useful 🙂

    I agree with your point about quotes – many quotations in news stories are merely padding. But don’t you also think they can give depth and perhaps, credibility to a blog post?
    Also, why have you changed the way you write your blogs? Is it just down to experience or did you want the blog to take on a different style?

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