Bloggers and Mainstream Journalism

Blogging and mainstream journalism are two
different forms of communication. Each carries its own
validity.

Is blogging “real” journalism? Can traditional journalists be trusted? The debate goes on. Cal Thomas lays out a case, of sorts, for traditional journalism, the kind he was trained to do. His thesis is that bloggers are less experienced, reliable and meticulous than traditional journalists who function with fact-checkers and editors. He’s especially agitated by Arianna Huffington’s blog.

He dislikes celebrity bloggers and his case against bloggers in general is that we’re opinionated (when we should be objective) and operate in a kind of free-range environment. He yearns for a return to the values that once were hallmarks of good journalism.

Bob Cox, organizer of BlogNashville, documents the apparent sloppy practices of a journalist who was not only unfamiliar with blogs, but he also inaccurately quoted Cox after a 45-minute interview and failed to cite Cox as the source of his interview about blogging.

I wish the practices and values Thomas describes were, in fact, the marks of journalism today, but they’re not. The practice of journalism is only as good as the individual reporter, just as the practice of blogging is only as good as the individual blogger.

A whole editorial structure at the New York Times didn’t prevent the excesses of Jason Blair, nor Michael Kelley at USA Today.
But that obscures the fact that blogging and traditional journalism are different forms of communication and one doesn’t necessarily equate to the other. You can’t overlook the breaches of integrity that have been documented over the past few years, from fictitious interview subjects to false datelines to plagiarism–all in the major media. Not exactly a clarion call to the good ol’ days.

And there are blogs that are little more than impassioned opinions, lacking substance, reason and accuracy.

So despite a lot of smoke and name-calling, not much changes. Does it make that much difference to engage in the back and forth that leads nowhere? Maybe it’s enough to recognize that the two are different forms of communication, each carrying its own validity, and leave it at that.

That brings me to the most cogent piece I’ve read today. It’s a short comment by Mike McCurry on the Huffington Blog. Mike writes that 4 million children around the world will die before completing their first year. They will die for lack of sanitation, clean water, enough food. And he asks if there are any liberals who want to organize around this rather than debate filibuster rules, or right-to-lifers who want to preserve these lives?

Good question.

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