News Minute: Blogging about writing about blogging by rachels
June 3, 2008, 7:47 am
Filed under: FEATURES

Recent he-said/she-said blogger-tells-all articles in the New York Post and New York Times respectively have helped to bring about the inevitable: blogs are making and breaking the news as traditional papers scramble to keep up.

Although neither Emily Gould’s or Josh Stein’s (both former editors) recent autobiographical essays amount to “real news,” I personally believe that these articles are more than another opportunity to be photographed with his or her laptop. Their commentary on what it means to be a blogger today helps us understand how the news of today is being made, broken, sorted, and distorted online.

Gould’s insights into the murky world of professional blogging allow us to realize how deeply personal blogs are, even those that claim to be unbiased or news-driven. The rules and ethics that govern traditional media journalists are thrown out the window; anything goes.

“Injecting a personal aside into a post that wasn’t otherwise about me not only kept things interesting for me,” Gould writes, “it was also a surefire way of evoking a chorus of assenting or dissenting opinions, turning the solitary work of writing posts into something that felt more social, almost like a conversation.”

The reader-influenced aspect of blogs democratizes the news in a way that is both beneficial and harmful. To some, bloggers are citizen journalists intercepting the news and “The Man,” to others, uneducated amateurs who pay too much attention to reader-response and too little to fact checking.

Matt Drudge, arguably the world’s first famous blogger, told the National Press Corps in 1998 that “anyone with a modem can report on the world.”

A DC-area native with a troubled past, Drudge did not attend college and moved to Los Angeles where he managed the CBS gift shop for seven years. He began his online Report in 1995 with no professional education or training in journalism.

“Drudge’s methods are suspect in the eyes of most journalists,” stated his introduction to the Press Corps. “He moves with the speed of cyberspace, and critics charge he has no time to know his sources or check his facts. Like a channel catfish, he mucks through the hoaxes, conspiracies and half-truths posted online in pursuit of fodder for his website. That can have unpleasant consequences.”

Like it or not, the self-proclaimed newsman (Drudge shuns the term blogger, but I label him regardless) now earns an estimated $1.2 million per year from his Web site and radio talk show.

Drudge originally broke stories he heard from online friends, other “ordinary people,” and eavesdropped conversations at CBS studios. But the most important thing he did was link the news wires with clever titles.

Linking makes up most online new media; a blog simply would not exist without links to and from the site. And, when it comes down to it, what is a blog other than journalistic pastiche? It’s not the content itself that is original, but how and why it is presented. So what if you get it wrong? So what if your links are broken? Readers are already skimming the next post, next page, next blog.


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