BLOGSCANNING by Robert Janelle

Janelle-92X185Flip.jpg"When it comes to reporting the news, the threat blogs may post to older news outlets is really no different than having a competing newspaper set up shop."

There’s nothing much to choose between bloggers and journalists
From SCAN's Print Edition

Monitoring and writing about the blogosphere, I often see a lot of the same topics and debates flying around the Internet. One that comes up frequently is the so-called battle between journalists and bloggers.
In one corner, there’s the younger and technologically savvy group using all forms of new media to disseminate information, generally including a fair amount of personal commentary along with news updates.
In the other corner is the traditional media, most of which still print on paper where objectivity in reporting is still more important than opinion.

As a young journalist, I often get asked where I think journalism is going. Will the bloggers put traditional media reporters out of work? Or will the old media strike back and regain their influence?

My answer: none of the above. In fact, I don't even see this as a battle.

First off, in saying the blogs are taking over, it's important to remember that the term “blog” can mean many things.
There are corporate blogs that provide updates to customers whose old media equivalent would be a company newsletter, there are online diaries and there are sites that simply consist of links to other sites.

Then there are news sites where the distinction between journalist and blogger gets blurred.

It's clearly impossible to deny the influence these web sites have. InMedia (http://www.inmedia.com/) founder and Ottawa technology PR strategist Frances Moran learned this a few years ago when clients were looking for a public relations representative specifically to pitch their products to influential bloggers.

Writing in his company’s blog [http://inmedialog.com], he acknowledges that he lost a couple of clients since he took what was considered an unconventional route to getting coverage from bloggers: he approached them the same way he would newspaper and magazine reporters.

Mr. Moran's approach has worked well, especially since the large and influential blogs have operations not much different from any other newsroom. In the case of tech bloggers, they're watching their RSS readers and Twitter feeds in much the same way that newspaper reporters have a police scanner blaring at them.

With teams of staff bloggers chasing down sources and writing to deadlines, the only thing really separating the larger blog networks like TechCrunch and GigaOM from traditional media outlets is the use of the Internet as the primary delivery method.

Meanwhile, the old media have been picking up new tricks. There are very few newspapers and magazines left that don’t include blogs as part of their online editions. There are now sections for readers to comment on articles instead of writing a letter to the editor. News is updated as it breaks rather than publishing everything at a set time.
The distinction really has been blurred but there’s still the criticism that comes from both sides.

Traditional media proponents frequently point to the low barrier to entry when it comes to blogging. While it only takes five seconds to sign up for a free Blogspot.com site from Google, this is really more akin to printing off a zine at Staples. It still takes time to build up an audience and even more time to build up credibility.

Those who identify themselves as bloggers distinct from journalists tend to accuse older media outlets of stagnating and not catching every story that happens. The first point may have been valid a few years ago, but most outlets have adapted. The second really comes down to the space available on a page though expanding online editions has made it possible to include more content.

Finally, both sides accuse each other of sloppy reporting and poor research. Admittedly, it does happen but the medium can hardly be blamed for human failure.

Besides, what really leaves me scratching my head when it comes to debating the merits of old media vs new is what to make of old-school reporters like the Globe and Mail's Mathew Ingram[http://www.mathewingram.com/work/] who also happens to be a prolific blogger.

When it comes to reporting the news, the threat blogs may post to older news outlets is really no different than having a competing newspaper set up shop. In short, the battle between journalists and bloggers is imaginary.

Bob Janelle is a freelance journalist who has plied his trade at the Citizen and Kingston’s Whig-Standard. A bilingual grad of Algonquin’s J-School, where he won awards for both writing and photography, he is a self-confessed video game addict.

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