Monday, May 17, 2004

Are weblogs journalism?
Online Journalism Review organised a roundtable with a group of "blogologists" (don't just dislike the term, I am biting my tongue hard not to use the kind of language I would like about it, while I remind myself "it's supposed to be funny, it's supposed to be funny"). One of the questions asked is:

OJR: Do you consider Weblogs to be a form of journalism? How do they differ from other forms of journalism and media?

The interviewees made good attempts at replies to this question by saying blogging is more than journalism, blogging may be journalism, blogging can challenge journalism, all of it correct. My question is however: where was the editor when the journalist made that question? Is a question like that journalism? It is asked by a reporter working in a review of online journalism published at a college of journalism, but it is clumsy, unprofessional and pretty impossible to answer in a way that does not make the interviewee seem pedantic or trying to avoid the question.

As a public service for all who have considered asking that or a similar question, I am going to do some pigeonholing. I am even going to talk about the size of pigeon holes: which small holes fit into which big ones. Sometimes it just has to be done.

The problem with OJR's question is that we could just as well ask: is writing journalism? Is printing journalism? Is videotaping journalism? Is filming journalism? Is soundtaping journalism? All of these manners of recording and communicating can be journalism, given certain criteria met. The same goes for blogging. We can adjust this question so OJR doesn't need to ask it again in the future, when some other online medium becomes popular, by rephrasing it to: "Is communicating journalism?"

Now, pay attention to the pigeonholes: Communication is the big box. Journalism is a little one that fits inside the big box. Blogging is a box that is smaller than communication, but bigger than journalism. Concept-wise it is comparable to television(ing) and radio(ing), and a lot of different genres of recording and reporting from the world of facts and fantasy fit within each of these boxes.

So: is blogging journalism? No. But a blog can be a medium for good reporting, good newscoverage, good investigative journalism. It is also a lot more.

No comments: