journalism as a conversation

if we see blogs in terms of conversations (a much overhyped metaphor as of late) what are the implications for journalism, now undergoing a transformation at the hands of bloggers?

not only does blogging enable subject matter experts to bypass a journalist middleman/woman, it also allows non-experts (i.e. the rest of us) to post what essentially amount to as requests for comment. usually they follow the form, “i think this, that, and the other” optionally followed by “anyone have any thoughts?”.

the blog’s readers (who may themselves be bloggers) then have an opportunity to respond, either by posting links to supporting or refuting sources or by furthering the discussion on other blogs in the form “blockquote, response”. this can go on ad infinitum, which certainly represents the bursty and asynchronous flow of information better than the daily new cycle.

the mainstream media derides non-expert bloggers but really they only represent the beginning of the process, the start of the conversation. other bloggers gather information, check facts and sources, question or explain the content. a certain few blogs and aggregators (boingboing, slashdot, blogdex, technorati, etc.) act as central information hubs, disseminating the latest and greatest and keeping people up-to-date.

the truth is that there isn’t only one type of blogger and no single blogger represents one and only one type. we are all writers, fact checkers, editors, reporters, paperboys/girls (connectors) to varying degrees with every post we post.

so while i’ve said bloggers should be asking themselves, “how can we be more like journalists?”, journalists should be asking, “how can the news be more like a conversation?”


I’m really enjoying your thoughts on blogging v. journalism, Justin. I’d be interested in hearing what you have to say about the audience issues…often journalists vary their style enormously depending on the particular publishing venue. Bloggers typically only have one venue…do they alter their voices for other reasons? Or are they monovocal?

As well, I view information generation/aggregation/presentation as highly, highly audience dependent. How do you think that blogs deal with this? Is RSS one part of that puzzle?

it kind of breaks one of my cardinal rules–not to blog about blogging, haha, but i guess i can overrule that because this happens to be something that is frequently on my mind and timely as far as current events.

so what you’re saying is that an individual J. Random Journalist might publish something in USA Today in one voice/style and something in the Economist in another?

well, i did that just yesterday. i posted to my blog and i wrote something up for orangepolitics (using capital letters at least). i’m not sure if the style was any different.

that may be an exception, as that’s certainly not something i do often, but i wonder how frequently a journalist significantly alters the voice/style of the content they produce for a different publication…

freelancers, sure. but we’ve definitely seen guestposters, on boingboing and lessig’s blog, etc…

all this talk about what the internet can be and how it’s changing the way we interact with the world has motivated me to finish writing up a proposal for a project i want to start pretty soon. in a nutshell – i think that in the same way that blogging represents a possible improvement on journalism, the internet provides an incredible tool for collaborative problem solving.

sorry for breaking the ‘don’t advertise’ rule… ;)


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