The rapid growth of social media, particularly blogs, has exposed journalists to the online world like never before. In turn, new media has provided ordinary citizens with the opportunity to have their voices heard on a multi-national platform at the click of a button. Former journalist-turned-full-time-professional-blogger Nikki Parkinson (@stylingyou), who was named the Best Australian Blogger of 2011, argues the line between journalists and bloggers are becoming “quite blurred.” Her question to QUT journalism students was: “Are bloggers journalists? Can journalists be bloggers?” Parkinson believes journalists are “threatened” by the rise of bloggers, as their influence on the media landscape and society in general continues to prosper.
In their book ‘The Executive’s Guide to Enterprise Social Media Strategy’, Mike Barlow and David Thomas claim the majority of practicing journalists are also active bloggers, and it is this cross-section that blurs the lines between the blogger and the journalist. “If you want to see these blurry lines, try to define the differences among bloggers, journalists, analysts and consultants. One person might wear one, two, three or all of those hats.”
Further, an ‘Editors Talk‘ forum in August where a panel of journalists and bloggers sat down to discuss the ramifications of the online world, panel member and editor of the New Yorker Henry Finder acknowledged the line between journalism and blogging has become obscure. However, he believes the general population understands the difference between opinion and what you find in the international section of the newspaper. “Hopefully the convergence of journalism and blogs won’t come at the expense of truth and accuracy,” he said. “People turn to blogs for a different thing. From a blog often what we want is the snarp, the attitude, the pirouetting – the subjectivity.”
Fellow panel member and winner of the Best Australian Blog for 2012 Eden Riley says whilst journalism is ‘proper’, blogging is not, showing not even bloggers themselves believe they play the same role as journalists. ”I hold hope that my (probably widely-shared) view will change. I hope that blogging will be an inherent and valued part of the new global media landscape.” ABC News Director Kate Torney holds interactivity and audience engagement are the keys to the industry’s future success. “I don’t know where the global media landscape will be in ten years or twenty years, but I’m pretty confident that beautifully crafted stories, probing investigative journalism and public interest reporting with strong and trusted news brands will be very much a part of that landscape,” she said. To listen to her speech about the future of media at Melbourne’s Press Club in February, watch the video below:
Additionally, in her blog post entitled ‘Blogging and Journalism. Not the same thing’, Allison Lee argues to recognise the difference between bloggers and journalists, we need to avoid mistaking influence for journalism. Lee attributes different agendas, formats, approaches to writing styles, remuneration and experience as lines in the sand between bloggers and journalists. She goes on to say, “Blogging isn’t going to replace journalism any time soon. In the brave new digital world, there’s room for journalists and bloggers. Just don’t expect them to do the same thing or tell the same story.” Although both blogging and journalism serve a public story-telling, information-dissemination function, Jay Rosen believes “blogging cannot replace the watchdog journalism that keeps a government accountable to its people.”
Lauren Fisher, media guru and founder of simplyzesty.com, says the debate isn’t about whether you are a journalist or a blogger, rather it is actually about the quality of the content you are producing and sharing. “It’s the substance that matters, not the title of the person that wrote it. And if they’re getting paid for what they write as well – then good on them for making a living out of it,” she says.
Lastly, Rosen argues journalists today are under increased pressure to produce accurate online stories in an accelerated manner. He claims this stress stems from five sources, which are outlined below:
- A collapsing economic model, as print and broadcast dollars are exchanged for digital dimes.
- New competition (the loss of monopoly) as a disruptive technology, the Internet, does its thing.
- A shift in power. The tools of the modern media have been distributed to the people formerly known as the audience.
- A new pattern of information flow, in which “stuff” moves horizontally, peer to peer, as effectively as it moves vertically, from producer to consumer.
- The erosion of trust (which started a long time ago but accelerated after 2002) and the loss of authority.
In sum, those who draw a distinction between blogging and journalism are correct in asserting the majority of bloggers have little to no interest in proper journalism practices and standards, whilst the blogosphere is largely dominated by opinion writing, rather than news writing. So, are bloggers journalists? Can journalists be bloggers? It could be argued when a good blogger undertakes investigative reporting to deliver a post that includes accurate, truthful, clear facts and a range of balanced sources, then that is, simply, journalism.
This blog entry could solely provide you with ’10 things I bet you didn’t know about Spencer Howson’, because he is one fascinating creature. The 612 ABC Brisbane Breakfast host, who I have longed to meet, loves to tweet. So much so, he in fact admitted to showering and tweeting at the same time. It sounds dangerous, almost life-threatening. Is there some kind of secret AA meeting for those self-obsessed social media addicts? My friends and family often question why I use Twitter, with running commentary like: “What is it?” “What do you do? Treat someone?” “I just don’t get it.” “It’s confusing.” And the list goes on.
But Spencer Howson gets it! He accepts that social media, and Twitter in particular, is a driving force for engaging with, and expanding, your audience. That is just one reason why I find him so fascinating. Not to mention his childhood BFF was Kyle Sandilands. “Who?” You ask. “Surely you couldn’t be talking about THE Kyle Sandilands, outspoken TV and radio personality known for his misdemeanours, outlandish ethical standards and bad boy image.” YES! Him. Hilarious! I just cannot get over it.
Hailed the ‘Breakfast King’, Howson is the top rating brekky presenter in Brisbane, so of course I was excited to hear he would be speaking to QUT’s Online Journalism students. I was like a squealing child at the first sight of candy when I received a notification that the Breakfast King himself replied to my tweet (despite referring to me as ‘crazy’ and ‘mixed-up’):
Anyway, back to the serious side of things. Howson says that radio is only half of his job now – the other half is social media. These days, connection and engagement with listeners is almost 24/7 due to the World Wide Web. Whilst the fate of the print journalism industry lies in the balance, Howson says radio is moving from strength to strength. Twitter enables radio hosts to connect with local communities, whether they are listeners or not, and drive them to the radio station. Interactivity is also faster than ever before, with the ability to receive responses and comments in a matter of seconds. Howson says it’s like reading perennial amounts of letters-to-the-editor. Social media has also enabled radio outlets to partake in photo engagement like never before. In the past, listeners would mail their photos to the station. Now, photo and video content can be shared more often and more freely.
Howson also debated that Twitter is useful in obtaining sources, especially those who may be reluctant to comment on air, and sourcing story ideas. The Oriella PR Network’s Global Digital Journalism Study supports this idea, suggesting that journalists are treating social media channels not only as sources of news, but also as a means of validating stories. Last year, just under half of journalists surveyed said they used Twitter for sourcing stories, and 35% used Facebook in the same way. This year found that 54% of respondents use social media outlets if the source is trusted by the journalist, whilst 45% said they used blogs to source angles for new stories. This highlights the growing use of social media, particularly Twitter, as an essential part of today’s newsgathering process. Interestingly, the graph below shows where journalists worldwide turn when researching a story:
In sum, it is undeniable that social media is the way of the future, not only when it comes to connecting and engaging with your audience, but also sourcing stories and obtaining comments. Social media is also aiding the survival of radio journalism during times when traditional media platforms are struggling to sail the unchartered waters ahead. It seems Howson knows what he’s doing in the Twittersphere.
I will leave you with one last fun fact about Spencer Howson. He writes on fruit. “If you run out of paper, a banana will do,” he says. Personally, I love it.