Why blogs should play a role in journalism

Blogging in journalism is one of those topics that can provoke strong emotions. Usually critics of blogs are quick to proclaim that “blogging isn’t journalism!”

This kind of debate is fruitless, as it confuses form with content. Blogs have developed to become a publishing platform, just like television or radio. The content may or may not be journalism.

As with any platform, it has its own conventions which has developed as a result of the history and technology used in blogging.

So rather than arguing over whether blogging is journalism, the discussion should focus on how blog conventions impact on journalism.

The unconventional

Blogs share certain generic qualities, such as the most recent post at the top and a blogroll of related sites.

These are more to do with the form rather than the content of blogs. More significant is the impact certain conventions have journalism

Blogs are characterised by a conversational tone, frequently a personal or subjective writing style, with short posts containing links to sources mentioned, published quickly, often without editorial oversight.

This means that a blog in the hands of a journalist will not, and arguably should not, yield a traditional print article.

New horizons

Blogging have the potential to create new forms of journalism. Much has been written about the ability to engage in a conversation with readers via a blog, or rather, an imperfect conversation.

Clearly, blogging as a journalistic device is in its early days. Some news outlets use blogs as a transparency tool, to discuss editorial decisions. Some reporters use blogs to reach out to audiences. Some journalists have adopted the blog format to cover a traditional journalistic beat.

This is just the beginning, as journalists and other explore new uses for blogging. It is time to stop arguing about whether blogging is journalism and instead debate how this innovative platform can be developed in journalism.

My students at the UBC Graduate School of Journalism are just embarking on blogs as part of our multiplatform journalism course and I am excited to see what they come up with.

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