Wednesday, July 05, 2006

MSM and the ‘citizen journalist’

Bloggers writing about blogging is dull – but people – both bloggers and non-bloggers - get confused about the difference between journalism and blogging.

I have been blogging for over a year now. It’s a hobby much like long-distance running. I have done both. Both get addictive. Both demand that you do it, in some form, virtually everyday. Both need commitment. Both demand that you are in it for the long run.

I do it cause I like it. I do it when I get home from work and sometimes very late at night.

I have always written copious amounts of stuff about all sorts of things. Much of the time I get paid for it. But I used to fill up notebooks full of stuff just for my own amusement, as well.

And then blogs came along and it seemed only natural to write and publish stuff on that. The freedom of expression is total and you can indulge yourself. The blogger is the boss of his blog. No outside pressures.

Contrast that with getting something published in what the blog community calls ‘the mainstream media’ (MSM).

The content of what you write about, and the subjects you write about, are mediated by several ‘filters’. The owner, the editor, the advertisers, consumers. There is also the most powerful self-constraint of all: self-censorship. You know how far you can go, you need to try and be objective, you try and be ethical, you need to fact check, you are careful for reasons of professional self preservation.

I get many emails from people. One recently said very nice things about the blog and said that it helped him keep up to date with the country that his family is from (I think he is from the US).

I wrote back saying thank you but warning him that if the beatroot was the his only source of news about Poland then he would be getting a partial picture of the country.

I always meticulously put links from where I get information from, in English, so that everyone can be involved and can see I am not just making facts up.

But the subjects on this blog are ones that are of interest to me. That’s the only editorial consideration. If others find them interesting (or annoying) then so much the better!

But when bloggers claim that they are ‘citizen journalists’ – an expression I do not like – they forget that, fundamentally, blogging and journalism are very different things. Bloggers go through none of the ‘filters’ that journalists working in MSM do.

And I think it is wise that readers of blogs and writers of blogs remember that.


Lynn said...

Good points. Your professionalism shows in your blog even though as you say it's not the same as journalism.

roman said...

You are right that all purported so called "facts" need to be taken with a grain of salt in the blogosphere. Your words of caution are definitely warrented.
One additional observation, however, the posts by professional journalists are still very much self-censored unless they operate on an unencumbered anonymous basis. Can't blame them for preserving their professional identity.
The blogosphere is a refreshingly new and pure media where, on the whole, one can find true and honest opimion from incredibly varied sources.
Long live the "free and uncensored" blogosphere.

Agnes said...

Self-censorship can be worse. Not even the bias is professional. I am being nostalgic now.

beatroot said...

I know what you mean. Talking to journos in Poland about the old days is very interesting. The 'Censors' didn't have to do very much as the journalists knew what was printable/broadcastable and what was not.

And it's the same, in a way, today. There is an editorial libe, there are gaols such as objectivity, legals, etc...things work by themselves, basically.

beatroot said...

Well said, Roman!

The lack of control that bloggers have is both a weakness and a strength...