Blogging vs. Journalism

I have been getting a lot of requests lately to speak about the differences between blogging and journalism. Though bloggers do work and act in some respects like journalists we simply aren’t and nor do we want to be. It must be said though that the more popular we become and the bigger the audience the more responsible we need to be and so some extent ethics and self moderation kicks in. Sure they aren’t the same as journalists but then I maintain that bloggers are actually more honest than journalists in that we are open about our partisanship, our biases and our prejudices.

In an article about Radiolab, Ira Glass makes an important point about journalism that I think holds true here:

Real journalism – and by that I mean fact-based reporting – is getting trounced by commentary and opinion in all its forms, from Fox News to the political blogs to Jon Stewart. Everyone knows newspapers are in horrible trouble. TV news continually loses ratings. And one way we broadcast journalists can fight back and hold our audience is to sound like human beings on the air. Not know-it-all stiffs. One way the opinion guys kick our ass and appeal to an audience is that they talk like normal people, not like news robots speaking their stentorian news-speak.

This si what I say in my presentation and what I told the Law Commission the other day. People follow bloggers not mastheads. True bloggers encourage debate, cause reactions and solicit a following that no journalist can hope to match.

I call my followers my “Army”. They are loyal and they go where I go. They choose to follow me because they like what I say and the way that I say it. Like most modern armies, my Army is is also a volunteer army. No one forces them to watch and read what I post, they choose to do so in an open market of idea that is vast and unrelenting in weeding out rubbish.

Some say we should be controlled. That we should have rules. I say no to that, I say let the mob rule. If I get something wrong then my audience will tell me and provide the links and proof that I was wrong.

Crossover though is imminent as mastheads lose their power. We have seen it happen in the US and the uK, New Zealand can’t be far behind. Those of us who have put in our 10,000 hours are now enjoying the rewards that come from hard work and persistence.


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  • Bunswalla

    Two other major differences are:
    1. You’re not ultimately owned and controlled by a big corporation e.g. TVNZ, Fairfax, Fox, Murdoch, Packer etc which means you can have whatever opinion you like without risking your career.
    2. You don’t have to submit what you write to an editor or sub-editor to sanitise it, run it past legal, correct grammar, spelling and style, and give it a cheesy headline.

  • There’s a tendency for people to conflate arguments, discussions, expressions of differences into debates they’ve had before.
    viz: I raise a point about a blogger being misleading in a blog post, and the debate becomes:
    Erk! But I’m not a journalist! Journalism and blogging are different! Erk!

    No, I was just suggesting, gently, that maybe there’s something parasitic bloggers could learn from their primary source of material and day to day inspiration, the Mainstream Media … values like accuracy and disclosure.

    Another unfortunate human tendency is self-identification by our membership of a (to us) distinct group — and equally, our non-membership of ‘the other’ … e.g. ‘I’m not a racist’ or ‘I’m not a pinko’ or ‘I’m not a journalist’.

    Of course, given the context of some of our discussions here and elsewhere, I welcome and applaud and support your sentiments, Cam, that “… the big­ger the audi­ence the more respon­si­ble we need to be and so some extent ethics and self mod­er­a­tion kicks in.”

    And I agree, part of the ‘Army’s’ role is to tell you to pull your head in or deploy some facts or play fair. I know a persona is not the person, which is why I enjoy your company but not all of your blog posts.

    As for this:

    True blog­gers encour­age debate, cause reac­tions and solicit a fol­low­ing that no jour­nal­ist can hope to match.

    . Weelll, that seems a little like wishful thinking. My old workmate Paul Holmes (also ‘not a journalist’) did all right in that respect and still does.

    I know plenty of bloggers who itch and yearn to be part of the MSM. Gawd, Martyn Bradbury even apparently advocates forced retirement of baby boomers in his latest frustrated effort to get them out of senior media jobs so dipwits like him can pleeeeeeeeeeeeesse get a proper job/enter the palace. (Groan.)

    Reports of the demise of ‘journalism’ are in my view over-egged. Dead tree Newspaper publishing is on the skids as it was, newsrooms all around the world are downsizing, but people are always going to want some vaguely impartial news service, don’t you think?

    The internet and the rise of the pyjama-clad blogger (ahem) don’t herald the end of the public’s desire to be informed in a fairly neutral way. Fox News notwithstanding.

    And ‘True bloggers‘? What are they Cam? ‘True’? … As opposed to …? (serious question)

    – Peter

    • And in your first line you prove the point of the source comment, that journalists don’t speak or write like ordinary people and that bloggers do.

      Your Comments are longer than most blog posts. If I conducted a straw poll amongst readers I’d suggest they see that it is you who has posted a comment and then they ignore it because they simply can’t be bothered wading through a long winded diatribe about how much smarter you are than they are. Or how much smarter, honest, better, faster (choose a adjective) that you are compared with this humble blogger.

      There is an old adage, that you should know well, that Robert Kiyosaki said all the time, especially in his seminars when people moaned about his books. He said that he won awards for being a best selling writer not a best written author. The audience and size and therefore the influence that comes with that are the sole arbiter.

      • petal

        I do encourage some bloggers and some commenters to pick up the


        trend that is gaining popularity.

        For those unfamiliar, it stands for “too long, didn’t read”, and is followed by a one sentence summary of what the actual point is of the piece. An executive summary.

        I have not read many guest posts because they were simply too long. As Cam pointed out, the audience are here for bite-sized mullings over, and more intricate/complicated issues are dealt with over multiple posts.

        I read my news that way – I scan the headlines. If they don’t interest me, I don’t even go into the meat of article. With the amount of information we can choose to direct our attention towards these days, it’s a necessary triage skill.

        tl;dr – long blog posts should have a single sentence with the main point.

  • Glando Periscope

    An unnecessarily bitchy biteback to a reasonable comment in response, which also seems to be part of the blog culture. Meh…

  • “Or how much smarter, hon­est, bet­ter, faster (choose a adjec­tive) that you are com­pared with this hum­ble blogger.”

    Hang on, True blogger, isn’t that what YOU keep saying YOU ARE — compared to the lazy, unethical, plagiarising (blah blah And they wonder why I call them repeaters blah blah) mainstream media you rely on so much?

    – Peter

    PS Sorry I’m so boring. :-)

    • petal

      In all fairness Pete A, tarring Cam with the repeater brush is possibly picking the least guilty one out of the whole bunch. How many bloggers generate original material that isn’t op-ed even once a year? Cam does it all the time. It’s the reason I come here.

      Not sure if you’re boring. I’ll come over and have a look :)

      • Cheers Petal. Thanks, yes, I agree.
        I wasn’t calling Cam a repeater, but pointing out who it is on the WhaleOil blog who claims to be “smarter, hon­est, bet­ter, faster”… than others. Not me.

        There’s a lot I like about blogs and blogging. And a lot I like about how Cam runs his site, else I wouldn’t waste time here. Truly.

        But if he wants/demands/expects unquestioning fealty from commenters, er, nope. I don’t think he does, and I do know criticism can be hard to take. (But ‘dish it out/take it’ applies to us all, surely?)

        Anyway, what bores *me* is discussion about how people comment … {snort}

        – P

      • Bunswalla

        He’s exceptionally boring, pompous and smug. And 100% ignored. i gave up after skimming through the first 5 posts – pretty much all tl;dr and 0 comments. Makes me wonder why he came to this blog to stir things up. Perhaps the link on his name and the rather obvious url after signature is a sign how desperate he is to be thought relevant.

        Suggestion: write something people are interested in and actually want to read, and stop bleating if they don’t.

  • petal

    “…we are open about our partisanship, our biases and our prejudices.”

    And more importantly, your mistakes. Every post potentially has its feet held to the fire and if it comes up short or factually incorrect, a front page correction is made.

    It’s like the “old” journalism but with immediate accountability.

  • @Bunswalla Thanks for the review (… with bonus FREE psychoanalysis!)
    And for demonstrating a point.
    – P

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  • Bunswalla

    Oh, and signing your name three times only underlines the desperation to be recognised. No charge for that. Go well and enjoy whatever it is that you do.