Bloggers as Reporters

October 24th, 2007 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

newspaper reporter sketchHow amusing it remains that some TV talking heads, as well as newspaper reporters and even columnists, continue to denigrate bloggers. They often phrase that disingenuously as a blanket assertion that bloggers are not reporters.

To those of us who came out of journalism schools and newspapers, that is to laugh a bloggy laugh. They might ask more reasonable and more easily answered questions, such as:

  • Do some bloggers do reporting?
  • Are bloggers’ analyses and comments any less worthwhile or insightful than a paper’s columnists’?
  • Do blogs fill in the ever widening news and reporting gaps that ever penurious newspapers leave?

Dummy Down

Let’s get real, boys and girls. Consider the TV news anchors. We pretend that the teleprompter blurbs they read are real reporting. Yet, the last major TV anchor who reported was Roger Mudd, over 20 years ago. While he later ran Meet the Press and did essays on PBS, his ouster tells us too much about mainstream media. He was the rational replacement for Walter Cronkite, but one of his networks chose the much inferior Dan Rather and another the very LITE Tom Brokaw.

I occasionally wonder if Mudd didn’t have such a long, horse face and had been more of a pretty boy, if he would have gotten his deserved spots. MSM news coverage would be much better off if he had.

When I interviewed Mudd while he was still on CBS, he stood out from his TV peers. He said that he would never report a story on the air that he had not done the original work on or vetted personally. He was a reporter and from doing that had the insight the rest of TV news lacked then and lacks even more so now.

NIH MSM

Blog bashing is an amusing sport played by MSM. Yet, some bloggers are ignoring that and doing their business. As a result, you likely get coverage of events and ideas from blogs that either never appear in MSM or received the lowest-common-denominator treatment days, weeks or months later.

One of the most encouraging trends in the future of news and analysis is the increasing number and quality of how-to sessions for bloggers.

You don’t have to think too deeply to notice that the criticisms of blogs has a very defensive tone in general. Considering how newspapers and broadcast have decreasing staff and thus fewer and fewer meaningful stories, it’s not surprising that they knock the much more numerous bloggers who do report and do analyze. Increasingly, some bloggers have the interest and focus that strapped MSM lack to notice and cover local events and trends.

Die Hyperlocal!

That written, I confess that hyperlocal gives me the willies. I suspect this trend will play itself out badly and quickly, even though its intentions are good enough. The concept is that the bloggers go down to the neighborhood, block or house level with coverage.

The effect too often is to present trivia as substance. It resembles a facebook page or the far too common ain’t-my-kitten-or-boyfriend-cute blog. That kind of self-indulgence gets real stale real fast, and consequently drives most viewers away quickly. The Internet makes hyperlocal coverage possible, but that doesn’t mean it’s worthwhile.

Doing It Right

In contrast, consider community journalism. If you don’t know what that is, click over to H2Otown and see it done right. There, dedicated and savvy bloggers and other volunteers do play Jimmy Olsen. Some want to grow into paid reporters elsewhere. Others have a passion for reporting the unreported news, what they want to see in MSM and local weeklies but don’t.

You don’t have to go that far or treat blogging as a separate career that burns all your spare cycles. Yet, for those who didn’t come out of a reporting background, some smart groups have recognized that:

  • Community journalism and reportage on blogs can only help us news-hungry sorts.
  • Knowing how to go about it makes it much easier and more effective.
  • You can teach the little that folks need to know.

In the past couple of years, I attended several such sessions, as conferences or seminars. I’ll do more when they appear. Even with my background, it didn’t hurt me and I learned things. Moreover, ye olde networking is great at these. I spoke with and have contacts with professional and blogger sorts from the commonwealth, region and country.

In particular, I cite the Media Giraffe/New England News Forum conferences in Amherst and Lowell, and last weekend’s Nieman Foundation seminar in Cambridge. The former blended MSM and new media sorts such as bloggers. The latter was mostly weekly newspaper reporters and editors. (I may have been the only blogger there.)

There’s a far amount of coverage of the NENF conferences in this blog, including this. I posted one personal view of the Nieman one here, and shall do one or two more on the sessions last weekend.

Meanwhile, the key concepts for those new to news is that you can do this. You don’t have to quit your day job or even stop your regular blog posting. You can pick a topic, do a little research and interviewing, and voila! you can be Jimmy.

Cross-posting: This also appears on Marry in Massachusetts.

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