Has blogging changed your journalism?

From Roy Greenslade, Guardian Unlimited
The debate over blogging’s usefulness to journalism tends to get stuck in a cul de sac, mainly because too few people – well, too few journalists – treat it seriously. At conferences I’ve attended recently, speakers have referred to blogging as little more than a sad ego trip. It is not regarded as having any real public service value.

I’ll scream if I hear yet again that the blogosphere is a form of anarchy, a cacophony of self-centred and mischievous voices who are either talking to each other or talking to no one at all. I’m not denying that aspect, though I don’t see why people sitting at computer terminals day after day and downloading their thoughts should threaten civilisation as we know it.

What is also clear, most obviously in peer to peer blogging, is that people are engaged with each other as never before. Without any institutional or corporate coaxing, people are forming cyber communities in which they converse endlessly about their interests.

I say this as a preliminary to explaining why journalists, especially print veterans like me, are so suspicious of bloggers. We have spent our lives dominating conversations. No, that’s wrong of course. We did not converse at all. We lectured. We provided the information that people feasted on in order to hold their own conversations.

But, the odd “letter to the editor” aside, we were largely unaware of the content of those conversations. We moved on. We were the secular priests who decided what information to give the great unwashed and even told them how they should react to that information, what to think and what to do. Public service performed. Job done. How clever were were. How privileged.

In that old paradigm – to which many editors and journalists still cling – news was one-way traffic. We conceived it. We gathered it. We published it and broadcast it. It was justification enough that people bought our newspapers or tuned in to our radio and TV channels.

Blogging turns that model on its head. It allows people to question the information we provide. It allows them to produce their own information. It offers them a space to air their own views. The congregation is no longer in awe of the priests. Our supremacy is crumbling.

The growth of media in the last century or so has been dominated by the growth of big media, which really means the growth of big media people, whether they be individual entrepreneurs or corporate chiefs. It is entirely conceivable that the digital revolution may, in the fullness of time, sweep the media mogul aside.

The joy of the digital revolution is that it is bloodless, and democracy is at its heart. However, as with political revolutions, the establishment views it as anarchy and therefore dangerous. In fact, as everyone should surely know, democracy is rather messy. It is often chaotic. It is often illogical. It does not obey rules.

I think journalists are failing to grasp that truth. Blogging, though democratic in spirit, does threaten the established order of journalism.

When we journalists talk about integration we generally mean, integrating print and online activities. But the true integration comes online itself. The integration between journalists and citizens. Of course, there should be no distinction between them. But journalists still wish to see themselves as a class apart.

Read the full Greenslade blog by clicking here – though post your comments about sports blogs on this page below.

Paul Bradshaw, at Birmingham City University (Birmingham Poly as was) is gathering research for a paper on blogging with an online survey: click here if you wish to assist

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