Saturday, May 12, 2012

Blogging versus journalism

It is often said that a blogging is like journalism. I have to disagree. What I'm doing right now is not at all like journalism is meant to be. There is of course a cross over as some journalists choose to write in a personal tone and express personal opinions over factual content but this is just like saying ads and advertorials are the same as journalism and creative writing. It doesn't quite fit. Like square blocks and rectangle holes. Similar in certain respects but they aren't the same.

So in the first place I should set out just what a blogger is and just what a journalist is. In essence a blog is a website containing the writer's or group of writers' own experiences, observations and opinions. A blog also often contains images and links to other websites but that isn't so much what we're concerned about. A blogger is one who writes in a blog, the content of which is usually personal in style. Just like this. There can be a business aspect to blogging, lending it a marketing and sales air that can be quite unappealing at times, just as there can be an endless stream of personal events meant to connect you directly with what the blogger is doing. Both have their place but the best of blogging serves others more than it serves the blogger. There are also video blogs or 'vlogs' and again the same principles apply - ones that seek to provide entertainment for others are more appealing than ones that document solely what the vloger is up to. Still, most blogs and vlogs mix these aspects up so much that you have to just post to post what is entertainment, what is sales and marketing as well as what is an update from the blogger or vlogger.

A journalist, on the other hand, is either a person who practices the occupation or profession of journalism or a person who keeps a journal, diary or other record of daily events. But for the purposes of this post we'll label a journalist one who practices journalism. And journalism is the occupation of reporting, writing, editing, photographing or broadcasting news or of conducting any news organisation as a business. It does include writing that reflects superficial thought and research, a popular slant and hurried composition, in the form of topical newspapers or popular magazines. Both forms of writing can be distinguished from scholarly writing but the reporting of the news comes closer than the personalised. Scholarly writing is concerned with academic learning and research and it includes quotes, studies, facts and figures as well as a hypothesis and theory.

There is much argument and cynicism over the state of journalism today but most of the standards and processes are still in place in the most respectable of news suppliers. Like all forms of writing, there is good and bad researching, writing and reporting. It is up to the audience to choose what they rely upon as their source of news. Now this may seem like the wrong way to approach the issue. You might be thinking that no, it's up to them to research, write and report well. But if anyone can get away with something and succeed anyway they will. To make sure they don't get away with bad researching, writing and reporting an audience just needs to remove its support if they do such things. Then a journalist, newspaper crew or magazine crew will have to adjust their ways or lose their business. So choose carefully who you follow and simply don't follow any that fail to reach the proper standards. Don't worry about what your fellows think you should watch or read. Make up your own mind instead.

Out of all these definitions the only way to say a blogger is a journalist is to say that a blogger is a person who keeps a journal or diary, sometimes with a few added opinions and arguments. To write a blog does mean there is an opportunity to address issues more pertinent or topical than what is written in a journal or diary but the personal angle remains.

In the mode of personal expression, I'm quite glad I didn't have to go through a course in journalism just to write this. Also, I'm glad that the standard of my research skills and my abilities to note events down in a concise and brief format aren't being judged quite so harshly.

For one, I often find it difficult to write to word counts and space available - thus my preference towards writing novels over articles. I can and do write essays well. I even wrote a thesis although the word length was longer than stated.... (if I cut it back any more it would have read like a skeleton argument. As it was I nearly cried for the information I had to cut out). I write books too. But damned if you could get me to write poetry or limericks or anything so short and compact. On top of that, while I'm good at research I do like to occasionally just write what's on my mind and express my opinions rather than bury myself and my views in the facts of a story I'm not to interested in in the first place. Especially if I have to meet a deadline I can't just put back by ten minutes on my own because I'm my own boss.

The demands placed on a journalist are far different from those placed on a blogger. Even a frequent blogger like me. So you will never catch me claiming to be a journalist unless I've passes a journalism course and obtained a job for a newspaper of magazine where I'd write on news events. I like being a blogger and my work can be used as research material for a journalist. But my work is by nature blogging and not journalism.

I will say this: there are many out there posing as journalists and these people can be identified as those who ring companies, charities and scientists for a story already written. There's no searching for answers or writing of their own. Also, there are many who spend more time copying the work of others. So, when choosing your papers and journalists, make sure to find and follow those who do their own work and think critically.

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