Blogs and journalism, again.

Jan 19 2011 Published by under social computing technologies

I’ve been blogging since 2003 and I attend my first blogging un-conference in the Spring of 2004 (this search gets you my posts on BloggerCon II, scroll down, this archive capture of an early version of the schedule shows the amazing speakers). Blogging has been around since the mid-1990s, but it really picked up in the early 2000s.

From the very beginning there has been this tension between bloggers and mainstream media. Some bloggers have always seen themselves as local journalists or journalists who are faster or something. There have always been discussions of blogging ethics and blogging methods. There have been discussions of how bloggers are better than journalists and vice versa.

But really, this is a very narrow and really myopic view. At the same time journalists were starting to use blogs, and non-journalists were starting to use blogs for journalism, knitters were starting to use blogs to describe their projects and build their communities. Mommy bloggers were starting to use blogs to describe their daily lives. Food bloggers – in my memory – might have been slightly later. The biblioblogosphere – the group of librarians using blogs – started well before I started blogging. I learned how to blog at a conference in 2003 from other librarians (put on by SLA, of course!). Librarians have always discussed technology in the library, service to patrons, and innovation. That’s not new. That’s not something someone had to tell us to do!

My point in saying this is that blogs are a somewhat generic format that is easily adaptable to many different types of communication. The reverse chronological organization, RSS feeds, the ability to comment on individual posts, and the searchable archive of thoughts are all quite attractive. The way you can annotate images works well for knitters and foodies.

Many, many bloggers have no desire to learn and uphold the finest journalistic standards – even if they do want to communicate with the public. Another early idea was authenticity and being genuine. To me, that’s more important in the science blogosphere than trying to turn scientists into something they may not want to be.

Now, am I saying there are no best practices? That some people don’t write better than others or that some people (like yours truly) can’t use some help in writing better?  Of course not. Don’t be silly. The truth is and has always been that you need to communicate in a way that is appropriate for your desired audience. If you want to be picked up and quoted by major media outlets, it would probably help to follow those journalism standards. If you are writing to keep track of articles you’ve read so you can find them later – do whatever makes you happy. If you want to communicate within science, then do your fancy scientist thing. If you want to communicate to a broader audience, there are tips to be had for this.

And no, my twitter friends and fellow ischool grad students – blogging is not journalism.

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