“Is blogging journalism?” - an FAQ

Martin Belam by Martin Belam, 26 April 2012

I have, it seems, acquired something of a reputation for going apoplectic whenever somebody asks if blogging is journalism. To the extent that the developers on the live blogging project I’m working on at the Guardian nearly called the team “Is (live)blogging journalism” in my *cough* honour

So I thought I’d just write a little FAQ for everybody so I can be completely clear on where I stand on this “issue” which has been going on for over ten years.

Is blogging journalism?

No, because it is a dumb question, and always has been. As Paul Bradshaw put it, you might as well ask “Is ice cream strawberry?

So are bloggers journalists?

Sometimes. If they are doing journalism. If you run a blog that is investigating the tax affairs of Rangers, or covering the issue of immigration in Greece, that looks mightily like acts of journalism to me. If you run a blog pontificating on politics or a business niche or something like that, that looks a bit like being an amateur commentariat, not really “journalism”. And if, on the other hand, you have a collection of pictures of Liberal Democrats pointing at things, then that’s great, and I love the interwebs and all that, but that isn’t journalism.

Blogging is just a way of describing a CMS platform, isn’t it?

It can be, but I think “blog” has evolved into a useful short-hand for a genre and tone of content now.

OK. So does that mean news organisations should or shouldn’t call things blogs then?

It means they sometimes should. If a “blog” is based around a single topic, like the Guardian’s Bike Blog, then I think blog is a good label for it. It is also a useful label if the “blog” is based around an individual. Damian Thompson on the Telegraph is an example of a mainstream media blog that, IMHO, works really well. The blog format allows him to roam from covering church affairs, to politics, to ranting about Laurie Penny and John Bercow. This blog post of his - a single screengrab from the Guardian site poking fun at us that generated nearly 400 comments - is exactly what a “blog” should be capable of as a genre on a news website. It should be frequently updated, articles should be able to vary in tone and length, and a “blog” should have a consistent voice.

What news organisations shouldn’t do is call things blogs simply because they are:

  1. Made in a different CMS or use a different template
  2. Are “not news”
  3. Are some sort of shorthand for second-class content that gets shunted up into the dusty attic of a website

Is “blog” a useful category of navigation on a news website?

That navigation label is a really useful way for media organisations to arrange the content on their website based around the means and method of production.

Whether the end user finds a jumbled up mess of recently published articles that are “not news” on a wide variety of disparate subjects all displayed on one page...well, I couldn’t possibly say...

This all makes you very cross doesn’t it?

Yes.

So, are you a blogger or a journalist then?

Oh do fuck off.

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2 Comments

Hi Martin, while all that you say is true and I agree with it I prefer a simpler distinction: whereas a blogger usually gets 'paid' indirectly via site advertising, subscriptions, affiliate programmes etc a journalist is usually paid directly for their work (assuming it is published). We could pontificate on whether this means the journalist's work is therefore more highly valued but I don't think we need to get hung up on this. In my way of thinking the way the writer makes his money is senior to what he writes about - if a writer writes a bloggy like column for a newspaper - like George Best used to in the MoS and gets directly paid for his writing then this is not blogging in my opinion.

Hi Martin, here's saluting a fellow old-school Journalism pundit I see you. I was once interviewed on the query: "Is blogging journalism." Allow me to rephrase your take: "Is pen pencil?" The purists are adamant that blogging will never be Journalism by the farthest shot. And oh, the purists are so relevant and right. Why? Simple. Journalism is an institution built around the idea of information-dissemination on values - democracy, free speech, justice, law and order and so on, for instance. What about Blogging? Oh, blame it on Google Adsense, everyone believes his earning self to be a Journalist already. By the way I like ice cream

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