April 02, 2003
Pot, Kettle, Black

E-Media Tidbits (quicklink A28220) reports that Google has declined to include Infoshop News as a source for Google News. The original link includes this quote from the Google Team: "We are not accepting sites where all articles are produced by one individual. We are looking for sources with current news written by a staff of reporters and edited by a staff editor."

The excerpt doesn't explain what's driven this choice of criteria. I'd be interested in knowing how this decision was made and why.

It's easy to see how this might be used as grist for the mill in the ongoing "is blogging journalism?" debate (here's an early look, but the debate rages on elsewhere daily).

I have a journalism degree and a job in magazine publishing. But I've had only lukewarm interest in this debate. I understand that some bloggers may want to be considered "journalists" but for me it's hard to reconcile my understanding of the two activities.

It's hard to me to define blogging as journalism when so often blogging consists of linking to headlines about the news and reacting to it. That's punditry, not journalism, although both are found in the newspaper.

Until more bloggers start doing first-hand reporting, finding things out for themselves, rather than just acting as mediated filters for other sources, my answer to "is blogging journalism?" is going to be no. Believe it or not, not everything is discoverable on the Internet. Some things you still have to get out of the house and figure out for yourself. Sometimes you even have to ask other people for their views--even if you think you might not agree with them. I'm not seeing this interaction happening in the blog world, and it's the interaction that makes all the difference.

It's similarly hard to understand the blogger rush to self-select as journalists, for that matter. There is the compulsion to be taken "seriously," but by whom? The media? The government? Other bloggers? Welcome to the club; journalism is already full of people who take themselves too seriously. There is the economic driver to be paid, but again, by whom? Good luck getting all those people who find your site randomly via search engines to ante up.

I am fortunate not to need to depend on this site for my livelihood. I am also glad I don't have to aspire to professional journalism here. If I were going to stake my career on the contents of this site, I'd do away with random bits of whimsy, pictures of soup, humorous typos, posts by the cat, oblique stories about my past, and shoutouts to my friends (hooray for Snake-Haired Baby!). I'd do interviews and fact check and keep things relatively impersonal and strive for consistency of tone and language. I'd do these things because that's what a (good) journalist does.

It'd be a whole new ballgame; it'd be work.

Is blogging journalism? It's too soon to call this one. A better question is: Why does it have to be?

Posted at April 02, 2003 08:42 PM

I totally agree with you on this one. Blogging, is well, blogging, and let's leave it at that.

I think a lot of the "is this journalism" debate comes from Dave Winer, the guy who writes scripting news. The debate, imho, only really started after 9-11 when people who were in New York could offer a unique view.

I'm waiting for blogging to be used as a foundation for software tools inside corporations. It's easy to see how they could be useful, but difficult to actually make it happen.

Posted by: brian on April 3, 2003 09:10 AM

Um, respectfully, Anne?

My interviews, presented as primary source documents. Back-to-Iraq 2.0. The Agonist.

(OTOH, Google News is welcome to include or exclude who-ever - they don't impinge on my news diet, and haven't since they responded to criticism of their news sources early on by excluding 'propaganda' sources - within a month, the variety and predictability of the stories reflected the pre-Google News status quo, and the kooky, interesting material was banished. No more Weekly World News right next to an NYT story. The checkout lane at the supermarket has a greater diversity of voices now. Well not really, but I couldn't resist.)

I think it might well behoove the discussion (or empaw-er it, or something) to note that blogging can be journalism.

And, as an aside, the things you'd get rid of? There's no reason to. I mean, similar to a point I noted today, if your blog were a primary source of cultural information in a major media market, I hope that the posts from Kitty wouldn't, oh, make the cover, necessarily.

But I think that stuff's important.

Another part of all of this is considering process, copyright, ownership, and, in a word, the means of production. Case in point? That Kevin Stiles blog. I never read it regularly; I thought it was pretty obvious media-careerist grandstanding. But I think CNN was off base in having the guy pull the plug on it.

There are some interesting, discomfortable issues about blogs that were there in 'zine days, but not an issue because of the limited circulation.

I think you recall that I think of my blog as a kind of a notebook, and use that as an excuse to not expunge typos or take a jackhammer to run-on sentences. But the next time the WTO runs over my legs with tank, you can bet you'll be able read about as soon as I can write. I think, especiall in situations where you can use that sort of direct personal narrative holographically (remember all that email?) there's a valid set of news sources to look at.

Reflecting in that paragraph, I actually see more of your point now. Traditionally we don't get to see the notebooks. I think they'd be worth seeing, in the name of transparency if nothing else.

On the other hand, since cops' radio calls are recorded and logged, every cop in America has a cell phone and uses that if possible for cop-to-copp communications (a policeman friend tells me). A formal exposre process for notebooks would undoubtedly lead to a great gnashing of teeth.


Also, it was nice to think of Bears on Text and realize I've been published by you before ;)

Please forgive any typos and run-on sentences!

Posted by: mike on April 4, 2003 12:03 AM

The debate rages on and as with most debates, thereís room for more than one point of view.

Thanks for the suggested reads. I did look at the Agonist and I must say his minute-by-minute recapping of MSNBC and BBC News headlines might be a handy source of information for some, but itís not an intellectual process that interests me very much. If heís done other kinds of things in the past, maybe Iíve missed them. I also am aware of your interviews and acknowledge that they are a refreshing change from the usual blog fare. Maybe itís just me, but I havenít seen a whole lot of one-on-one Q&As in the blog world.

Part of where people fall on this issue may depend on their views as to the importance of the role of the editor. There was a recent interview with a journalism prof in the SF Chronicle who pointed out that the role of an editor is to ďMake sure you get it rightÖIf there's not an editor reading it before it goes up, it's taking away a safeguard that's a sensible one in journalism.Ē As an editor myself Iím biased, but I do think that extra set of eyes makes a difference. Not just to meddle with your wording and futz with your punctuation, but also to do just thatÖmake sure youíve gotten it right. On a number of levels.

Similarly, I am not convinced that bloggers have the same ethic of balance and fairness that journalists do (or should). Itís great to read compelling personal narrative like you (potentially) getting run over by a WTO tank or the Back to Iraq guy wandering around in the desert. Those provide an important part of the picture, but itís not the whole picture.

This is admittedly an old-skool sentiment, but I believe that the elements derived from balance and fairness help us achieve context, and thatís what good journalism should strive to provide.

Lots of bloggers are driven by ideology or, at least, torqued toward their own point of view. I know I certainly am. That's good for entertainment value. But when I really want to learn or understand something, I am more likely to trust people who strive for balance.

But perhaps weíre missing the forest for the trees, which was what I was trying to say in the post. Does blogging have to be journalism? Or can it evolve into something different but equally valuable? I think thatís a much more interesting question.

Posted by: Anne on April 4, 2003 10:45 AM

I hear you, especially about the editorial function.

I think one of the things that can happen with der blogs is to offer that slanted news source. Back before world war two, American newspapers were frequently wildly slanted - as is the case with some British papers today - and looking back at the level of investment indoemocratoc participation that accompanied the publication, I have to say I think that's a good thing.

Blogs give us back the slant, partly.

I think the Agonist's stuff (plus the comments on the site) is dissimilar only in scope to blogging in general - where the general effect of the linkpointers might come only from multiple sources otherwise, he's very concentrated on it, and it makes his thing almost like aclipping service or newsletter.

He's an investment research analyst, so there's certainly some careerism involved. But in this case good for him.

regarding the use of blogs as primary source documents, it's something that seems simply not to be of interest to a lot of blog readers. But since I don't imagine (and my stats tell me) most of my readers arrive via google and not blogs (with some exceptions, such as your and eric's site, easily top referrers) I'm happy with the material, if unhappy at my process toward incorporating it reglar-like.

Balancing the material with respecting the understandable print-gets-first-exclusive desire of the buying market is interesting to say the least. The lead times are like to kill me! But oh well.

Posted by: mike on April 4, 2003 02:13 PM

It's interesting that you think "slant" is a good thing. I'll have to think about that one.

Isn't it funny, I don't remember ever having a "are zines journalism?" debate in the '80s/'90s. Most of the practitioners I knew didn't want to be caught dead with such a legit label. Is it the added visibility and slick means of production that make the difference? I wonder.

Posted by: Anne on April 5, 2003 11:20 PM

Hi! Bounced over from your post on blog sisters because it was so fresh and beautiful, I just had to come see your house.

You guys sure are serious! All I was going to say at the end of this posted entry was:
I think of email as replacing snail mail.
Instant Messaging has replaced the telephone.
Blogging is all of it: a giant, global conference call, including anyone that wishes to join, allowing for silent visitors, all the while, the unmistakable scent of synapses firing, bouncing off, catching fire, turning into a firewords display, oops, "fireworks" and confetti-ing down, while we ooh and ahh and oogle each other's blogs. Like the glitter of the auroral dance overhead, except in our laps.

Thank you for posting "Baking Days" on blog sisters, else I might not have ever run into you.

Posted by: Kate S. on April 7, 2003 07:31 PM

Thanks for stopping!

We're not always this serious, but once Mike & I get started on questions of journalism, there's no stopping us.

Posted by: Anne on April 7, 2003 08:55 PM

Seems to me that blogging is a hybrid of journal-ING and a guestbook. Today is the first time I've looked for this technique, and am intrigued by your discussion here. I am an old-fashioned web designer, and am used to more creator-intensive journals. (Such as the one at http://gotouring.com/razzledazzle which I designed for my brother.) Journals have a long history and can offer wonderful insight to later generations.

Back to the queation. Perhaps some folks are confusing the medium with the content.

For example, would you say that an article printed in a club newsletter is journalism? Does something qualify as a newspaper if there are only 5 copies printed? 50? 500? If no one buys it (or runs ads to support it) and it's someone's private podium, is it still a newspaper?

When is a one-woman publication "journalism"? If I write things and let others read them -- it could be a newsletter, it could be self-promotion or advertising, it could be vanity, it could be a serial book or a journal.

Whether in print or electronic; I think it is the content, the intent, and the public-ness which determine if something is "journalistic" or not.

So, to answer your original question, "Is blogging journalism?" -- SOME IS, SOME AIN'T !!

Posted by: Lois on May 4, 2003 12:55 PM

I hear you, especially about the editorial function.

I think one of the things that can happen with der blogs is to offer that slanted news source. Back before world war two, American newspapers were frequently wildly slanted - as is the case with some British papers today - and looking back at the level of investment indoemocratoc participation that accompanied the publication, I have to say I think that's a good thing.

Posted by: pot on September 4, 2003 05:41 PM
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