Is Blogging Becoming The New Standard?

    March 15, 2007

When blogs first hit the scene, there were many who passed the practice off as ‘just another Internet trend’ and doomed the medium to failure before it ever got off the ground. Years later, blogging is still around – and it’s rapidly joining the ranks of mainstream media as a source of breaking news.

Newspapers, radio, and television have long dominated the journalistic landscape as the preferred platforms of information dissemination. There was a time when families would gather around in the evening to watch and listen to the likes of Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow deliver the evening news and reports from the front line of the second World War.

These men were trusted names because of their professionalism, demeanor, and longevity. Trustworthiness, however, seems to have developed an entirely new set of criteria with the emergence of the blogosphere.

With so much information at our fingertips, our need for instant information has become insatiable. We still want our news; but today more than ever, we want it now. Time spent researching details and attempting to secure relevant interviews is often seen as a hindrance to the journalistic process, especially when news sources that center around the blogging style place so much emphasis on the volume of content rather than the quality of reporting that’s taking place.

Is this a dangerous trend? That’s difficult to assess with any amount of certainty. The fact that blogging has inexorably spun the journalistic process as a whole into an entirely new tangent is undeniable, but the long-term effects of such a paradigm shift may not be felt for years to come.

Still yet, the question of blogging as legitimate journalism is one that at least bears addressing.

Speaking at the South by Southwest Multimedia Festival, longtime CBS news fixture Dan Rather (now working for Mark Cuban’s HDNet) gives his take on blogging:

As I’ve said many times, I think it’s very easy to generalize about blogging, which is a big sphere, and growing bigger every day. But there were parts of it I considered to be serious. Anybody who blogs, who does real reporting, which is to say, make telephone calls, go interview people, go talk to people, in a spirit of independence…and (tries) to do journalism with integrity, I would consider a journalist.

Can we assume, then, that all bloggers conduct themselves with journalistic integrity? To do so, I believe, would be the very definition of an exercise in naiveté.

For example, let’s look at what has recently transpired with Loren Feldman of 1938 Media fame. While I would consider Loren a top-notch journalist and entertainer, it’s clear that a few of his peers don’t exactly share the same sentiment. In an unexpectedly sober video blog entry, Loren brings light to libelous statements that have been made about him and his company – statements that were contained within the comments section of a blog.

The elemental differences between traditional news reporting and blogging are the intrinsically social & undisciplined aspects of the online platform. Broadcasters, for better or worse, have a code of ethics and conduct to which they must adhere, and established styles of reporting that most within the industry follow explicitly. Bloggers, however, are not bound by similar constraints and have the freedom to say whatever they want, about whomever they want, however they want to say it.

As blogging edges its way closer to the mainstream news consciousness, should a code of ethics and conduct be put into place to preserve journalistic integrity? I know this concept has been talked about before, but perhaps now is the time to take a second look at the discussion and consider whether or not such an idea carries significant merit.

The truth of the matter is that blogs are here to stay and bloggers are taking themselves more seriously as journalists rather than merely viewing themselves as amateur news reporters. As the focus on the medium continues to rise, it follows that the standards and practices of the reporting need to equally rise as well.