Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The difference between blogging and reporting

The newspaper industry has been dismissive of blogging -- perpetuating the stereotype of the unshaven loser, sitting in his underwear, screaming anonymously at the world from a keyboard in his mother's basement.

Of course, it seems that recently even the most stodgy newspapers have set up blogs for at least some of their reporters or columnists with blogs. The Chicago Tribune Washington Bureau has a blog, The Swamp, that I wind up visiting most every day.

So the line between blogging and reporting is blurring... or is it?

I submit that there is still a clear distinction, one which depends on what the writer does, not how the piece is written or where it appears.

A good analogy to one typical sort of blog entry is an op-ed column in a newspaper: The columnist comments on some event, assuming the reader will have gleaned the news about that event from some other source... preferably (from the newspaper's view) the news hole of said paper.

Not all columnists blog... and most columnists do not blog all the time. Robert Novak, for example, generally reports on a story as well as comments because he cites his own sources. He doesn't merely repackage quotes obtained by some other reporter.

Jay Mariotti, on the other hand, who recently quit his Sun-Times column, was derided, after his departure, by his former colleagues as little more than a blogger since he took quotes they gathered and merely added his (almost always negative) views.

First person observations may or may not be reporting: Watching the parade pass through town and counting the floats might be reporting... but probably isn't. If the writer adds, accurately, that the sophomore class float again took top honors, the piece becomes more like reporting. Closer still if the writer accurately recounts a chat with the parade organizer who provides statistics about the number of floats or the effect of the change in the route this year.

In short, reporting is original content obtained because of the accurately-recounted input of at least one person not the writer. It is still reporting, even if it appears only online and is not presented with a traditional lede. Blogging may be original content, but stands on the shoulders of others' reporting, and is blogging even if it appears in the newspaper. Even news stories, presented with a traditional lede, may be only glorified blogging. (For example, when a newspaper lede reads, "The Keokuk Gazette reports that Hiram Braunschweiger, of East Nowhere Junction, brought the longest ear of corn ever recorded to the state agricultural agency on Saturday," it's just a blog entry, despite the who-what-when-where format.)

Some blogs do honest, straightforward reporting, at least some of the time. There has seldom been any reporting here at Second Effort. While my mother passed on long ago and I do not blog in my underwear, I can't quote the greats and near-greats (or even the wannabe-somebodies) without cribbing from somebody else's published reporting. (I hope I always provide sufficient attribution.)


Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

i must admit to blogging in my jammies on occasion!

smiles, bee

Jean-Luc Picard said...

It's true that bloggers are generally looked down on, though a lot of major figures seem to have one.

Dave said...

Reporters and real live opinion writers should not fear bloggers. We, the latter, are the amateurs, enthusiastic as we often are. Often good; but, often slap-dash. Seldom disciplined and professional.

The proliferation of professional writers adding a blog to the mix isn't really a good idea. It dilutes their efforts. "Professional blogs" are probably the result of the 24/7/365 internet/cable/satellite news and entertainment cycle we seem to have been "gifted." We just have gotta give you something new everytime you visit.

Erika Jean said...

"the stereotype of the unshaven loser, sitting in his underwear, screaming anonymously at the world from a keyboard in his mother's basement"
hahaha I absolutely love it!!