How Bloggers Can Find Journalistic Credibility

The Writing Should Speak for Itself

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What is the difference between a blogger and a journalist? Is the guy labeled a journalist automatically more credible because of that label? How can a blogger attain that kind of credibility? 

WebProNews recently sat down with freelance journalist Greg Ferenstein, probably best known for his articles at Mashable. He talked about how to stick out in the crowd of bloggers and the fine line between blogging and journalism.  

Coming Up With Original Content

As you know, if you want readers, you have to have good content, and if you don’t produce really original content, you may have a hard time finding that audience. 

"At least in my case, I found a lot more people read my stuff when I did original investigations, so I was conducting interviews, looking at academic research, talking to people late at night about their new projects, so I could be the source of information all the other bloggers were talking about," Ferenstein told us. 

"As far as finding original sources, the thing that always helped me the most was first just being a networker – going to conferences, meeting people, developing personal relations… because ultimately, bloggers aren’t legacy media," he added. "They don’t have a big name behind them. So all of the people that they ask for things (interviews [and] stuff like that), they have to have a personal relationship with because they can’t guarantee the person who’s doing the interview that they’re going to get a lot of foot traffic."

Accounting for Short Attention Spans

Content is one thing, but it also helps to consider the audience themselves. Sometimes your good content may be lost to poor formatting or just lack of readability. 

"I always assume my reader has acute attention deficit disorder," Ferenstein tells us. "Everyone on the Internet is skimmers. They’re looking at Twitter feeds, Facebook, RSS, and a million different sites plus the 25 odd tabs they have going that they haven’t looked [at] in the past week. So I format my blogs with italics, bolds, pictures…to force the reader into what I think is most important for them. Because your reader is going to skim. They can skim in the way you want or they can skim the way they want. I choose to have the power over that."

Overcoming Skepticism

The problem with blogging is that there is a lot of skepticism tied to it. There is a good reason for this. Anyone can blog, so you have to earn the trust of the audience. 

"I always like to imagine that my reader doesn’t like me and doesn’t want to believe anything I’m saying," say Ferenstein. "So I have to uncover an enormous amount of evidence to convince anyone I possibly could…you can’t really attain that, but so long as you’re shooting for that, you’re going to develop and use a lot more evidence, and that will build your credibility."

Of course personal bias is always creeping through the blogging shadows. "Psychologically, people have a proclivity for seeing what they want to see, so you’ll see a bunch of facts, but depending on what your ideology is, you’re going to interpret that unknowingly and with the best of intentions, in the way you want to see it," Ferenstein explained. "And because bloggers don’t have editors, they are both judge and jury, so they’re more likely to pick up on the extreme interpretations of fact, and fulfill this heated kind of rhetoric that we see coming out of the online world."

"As bloggers, without an editor, you have to be extremely diligent in not doing that or you’re just going to be a part of the problem," he added.

Blogger? Journalist? What’s the difference?

That’s not to say there isn’t such a problem in traditional media, despite the presence of editors. 

"I think bloggers are the future," said Ferenstein. "I don’t really like the distinction between a blogger and a journalist. There are some horrible journalists, and there are some great bloggers, and they could probably swap positions and we wouldn’t know much of a difference. Good writing is good writing, and as more people come into the space, there’s going to be more opportunity for people outside the people with journalism degrees or with the typical pedigree or connections that used to get them into the legacy media organizations."

Because the landscape is so much broader, there’s going to be a lot more noise, he notes, so "You’re going to have to do something really unique to distinguish yourself."

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  • http://doablefinance.com Doable Finance

    You are absolutely right. After blogging for than 2 years, I still find some “fresh” content that I can write. The problem is the SEO. I have to follow some general and some specific rules in order to be found by organic search. It’s pretty hard.

    • Chris Crum

      I would write for people before writing for the search engines. People are more likely to share good content, and even the top organic rankings are becoming less visible for many queries.

  • http://www.jasonslater.co.uk Jason Slater

    Fascinating article Chris! As a blogger I do see bloggers and journalists as being quite distinct though with a few common traits, in particular I see myself, and other bloggers, as more like columnists with a regular ongoing discussion than a journalist. Although, there are lots of different types of blogs out there, it can be difficult sometimes gaining the credibility you need to say, attend a busy press event, when you don’t have the formality of a press card but I would recommend sticking at what you know and researching your subject area carefully. Knowledge and experience often win out in the end.

    • Chris Crum

      Agreed on that last sentence. If you can consistently demonstrate your knowledge in your particular area of coverage, and establish credibility that way, you may start to find invitations to the kinds of events you would like to cover.

  • http://brianelwinpomeroy.posterous.com/ Brian Pomeroy

    I would like all bloggers to concentrate on writing politicians the world over to release the non-violent. The rules were made to be broken and or people make mistakes and some of the rules are written, mostly since nine eleven, to keep the frightened safe while denying the human rights of others.
    I stay indoors a lot so if people are afraid they might do the same.
    Now I shall have a quiet drink of the Bacardi Black Rum and a smoke of the Red Number Seven tobacco. Need the rules to change so I might have a smoke of the weed.
    Brian Elwin Pomeroy

  • http://www.house-zakaria.com Luki

    Thanks for your article – it is liberating for a so called anonymous blogger to get a taste of credibility.

    I realized that in the process of blogging, the first step of doing it is apparently self promoting, but than possibly evolves in an attitude to contribute – or maybe this attitude is there in first place…?

    However, your article is motivating to balance those elements better.

  • http://www.paragon9.com Gwen Taylor

    Most bloggers are not journalist and that includes me. I also scan blogs and articles searching for specific content that relates to specific subject matter. When it comes to technology blogs and articles I find it difficult to come up with original content because most of what I read is saying the same thing over and over again, so trying to be original on subject matter that has been blogged about a trillion times over becomes very difficult. I agree that making a blog or article stand out from the rest is a key factor to a successful blog; it

  • http://www.WebTrafficNews.com The Web Traffic Reporter

    Both the article and the video were tremendously valuable content for me as I have just taken the dive into journalistic blogging for the Website Traffic niche.

    Thanks for a great article!

    Mark “The Web Traffic Reporter” Brown

  • http://www.universityofwiseoldwomen.com Jane Lee Bock

    When I was working for newspapers in my younger days, my chief mentor and publisher made it perfectly clear what he expected of the reporters in their journalistic endeavors and what most bloggers are doing now just wouldn’t cut it in that world. The primary difference between bloggers and journalists, in my opinion, is in fact that journalists were never allowed to even HAVE an opinion, while bloggers tend to only write about things that they have a strong opinion about, which shows in their writing. Remember Joe Friday of Dragnet saying, “Just the facts?”

    Many news organizations would not even allow journalists to have any affiliation with a political party because they felt it could bias their stories, and journalists were trained to present both sides of an issue with equal clarity to allow the reader to decide for themselves where the truth lies. Whenever I quoted a politician saying something stupid, I had an interview tape to back me up when the lawyers got phone calls. Bloggers don’t really bear that level of responsibility. Yet.

  • Guest

    Chris Crum makes some good points in his ideas of the difference between a journalist and a blogger. Yet the reality is that there is a far greater difference, even though there is a superficial sameness.

    One cannot describe either ‘a journalist’ or ‘a blogger’ easily, since both range over many different areas, types, purposes and levels of discipline. In part his is because no definitions have been offered by Chris. that leaves all of us with ‘mind’s eye’ ideas, often based on our own prejudices.

    Broadly I would offer the main difference as one of discipline. To be a journalist in any meaningful way involves considerable training. That training enables any journalist to turn to many tasks; though no journalist does everything. But one thing every journalist is conditioned to: meeting deadlines. Bloggers rarely think in such terms.

    To be a blogger it is sufficient to open an account at WordPress or Blogger or one of the other providers of space and software. That is in no way to suggest that there are not some excellent bloggers, nor some appalling journalists. Nor does that mean a blogger may not become a journalist, nor that a journalist may not blog.

    In a way all that is beside the point anyway. What is most desireable is that we all strive for improvement all the time. And show a bit of respect for each other.

    Joseph Harris in the UK

  • http://MusingMatters.com hmm

    a) Coming up with original content?
    b) Having readers?
    c) Being a networker?
    d) Assuming your readers have acute ADD?
    e) Have an editor?
    f) Don’t bias the facts with your ideology?
    g) Do something unique to distinguish yourself?

    Yea, it seems like something is missing. For those of you who are still reading this I will assume that you are in controll of your ADD and since my editor is yelling at me that breakfast is ready I will have to cut this short to meet my deadline. Here is something to ponder when considering the difference between a blogger and a journalist:
    … the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University on December 3, 2009 stated:

    • http://www.house-zakaria.com Luki

      I think here we find the same question and answer as in the real life…
      In our live most actions have dual aspects- lets say- the self maintaining and the public minded.
      The question is if both aspects are guaranteed? If yes, than we call it Democracy.
      If based on this foundation we exercise this given freedom to willingly put priority on serving the public purpose, than we call it a distinct personality, and if a person increases his public engagement beyond the average, than we look up to him as a person of high quality and credibility.
      We should respect the education, yes, but we must admit, that it is the person himself that makes the difference.
      Maybe the question about , how to gain journalistic credibility follows the same pattern.

      While engaging my self in a simple blog like: Guesthouse Zakaria , I did realized the urge of reaching the credibility. Jet before questioning this, I still wounder more about how to maintain the writing enthusiasm.

  • http://www.bigears.net.au Big Ears

    Bloggers are SEO Journalists in many cases. Jounalists write the news how they percieve it or how they want their readers to percieve it. A blogger needs to take another dimension into account being, SEO.

    Because of this, jounalistic quality is reduced making the blogger look second rate.

    Whilst crawlers determine the quality of news we will always recieve second rate quality news.

    Pretty much Bloggers are Advertorial Specialists.

    This is my opinion so what’s yours?

  • http://iipalbanjary.net/ iip albanjary

    Bloggers and journalist come from different era of media mainstream.

    I note some online journalists attached in big media had lower accuracy than in journalist who worked for (hard) newspaper.

    Blogger is journalist without newspaper, but he (should) work like profesional journalism.

  • http://www.zygella.com Guest

    It is hard for anyone trying to share good quality content.

  • Ryan Kempf

    Well first off I think the reason it has such a bad rap is because creditability of the information being put out there I think if the information is truly credible then bloggers shouldn’t be afraid to post the source where they obtained the information from I think this would help tremendously as far as credibility is concerned If they are fearful of posting the source of where the information was obtained that in my opinion would lead me to believe 1 of two things #1 the author of the blog doesn’t have permission from the source to publish the information or the information is not true or only partially true

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