Mr Denmore is unhappy about my recent post ‘The blogosphere’s delusions of grandeur‘ where I suggest that blogging isn’t about to replace professional journalism. Mr Denmore agrees but thinks I’m attacking a straw man:
… just who is saying that blogging is intended to replace professional investigative journalism? And who says it is ‘either/or’? Can’t we have both? One would have thought we had got past this tired "pro" versus "am" debate and got to discussing what makes good journalism irrespective of how the writer is employed.
My post was born out of frustration. While I was skimming through a piece at the The Drum I read this comment by Flubber: "the task of serious investigative political journalism is being undertaken by a dedicated cohort of political bloggers, such as Grogs Gamut, Larvatus Prodeo, The Political Sword, and others." The claim was ridiculous but nobody on the thread questioned it.
Back in 2006, Andrew Norton offered a more realistic view of what popular political blogs might aspire to:
The most successful news-driven blogs – like Lavartus Prodeo [sic] on the left or Tim Blair on the right – are to me much closer to talkback radio than to newspapers or magazines. Both news-blogs and talkback are heavily reliant on print media for their stories, but add opinion – often of a strongly held and predictable kind from the blogger/presenter – and the opportunity for the general public to have their usually only slightly mediated say.
Mr Denmore cites a few examples of excellent blogging that don’t fall into this category and claims them for journalism (the examples are from Possum Comitatus, Matt Cowgill, and Greg Jericho). But in the end he dismisses the question whether blogging is better than journalism as silly.
And Mr Denmore is right. The question is silly. The silliest thing about this whole debate is the fixation on journalism. What is journalism? Are bloggers journalists? Are bloggers better journalists than journalists?
Most of what people do with blogs has nothing to do with journalism. Here at Troppo Nicholas Gruen likes to share academic papers. Blue Milk shares shares stories about parenting (her six year old daughter’s favourite bedtime story is a public health pamphlet about contagious diseases and infestations). And Experimental Philosophy discusses … experimental philosophy.
Journalists are repeatedly shocked to discover that some blogs are works of fiction. Several years ago many wondered out loud whether Belle de Jour‘s blog really was the online diary of a London call girl or whether it was fiction. Recently it turned out that A Gay Girl in Damascus was written by a married man in Edinburgh. In 2004 Jim McClellan wrote in the Guardian :
… blogs aren’t just about factual journalism. They’re about fictional narrative, too. Writers have always used the net to distribute novels and poems that could appear in print. But there’s a tradition of experimenting with online forms such as email and chatrooms to tell stories that could only work online. Writers are taking this further by working with blogs. Indeed, with their short daily entries, reader feedback and links to the net, blogs seem purpose-built for creating episodic stories.
So can bloggers be academics? Can they be parents? Can they be philosophers? Can they be novelists and literary hoaxers?
But getting back to politics — surely bloggers can share ideas and host discussions about politics without comparing themselves to celebrity newspaper columnists. One of the things blogs do well is allow people who share an interest to connect in ways that used to be much more difficult. At its best it’s a niche rather than a mass medium.
As a journalist and blogger Mr Denmore has a legitimate interest in how blogging and journalism relate. But I hope there’s also room in the blogosphere for people who care a lot about politics and ideas but not so much about journalism.