Monthly Archives: April 2007

Stop asking me “Is blogging journalism?”

As students around the world scramble for final quotes for their dissertations, I’ve had to answer the same inane question three times in a week. Here’s my response for anyone thinking of emailing/phoning/doorstepping me for theirs:

Q: Do you consider blogging a form of journalism? Why or why not?

A: Is television a form of journalism? Are words on a page a form of journalism? Are sounds a form of journalism? Blogs are a platform. They can contain journalism, just as TV, radio and print can. Many bloggers practice journalism, many do not. To ask if blogging is a form of journalism is to confuse form with content.

Q: Professional journalists are taught the principles and ethics of their profession. Since a lot of bloggers are not professional journalists, how do you think blogging can be made more credible?

A: Firstly, not all professional journalists are taught the principles and ethics of their profession. Secondly, many journalists ‘forget’ or have those teachings are ‘overwritten’ by professional experience. And thirdly, professional journalists do not have exclusive rights to principles and ethics – in fact, one of the reasons for the explosion in blogs is a perception that professional journalists lack principles and ethics (in the UK few professions are seen as less trustworthy and they are trusted even less than politicians). Some of the best bloggers represent the most principled and ethical journalists you will read – for instance, their refusal to accept advertising on the basis that it might undermine the credibility of what they write.

Blogging can gain more credibility through one thing: time. Many blogs already have strong credibility because they have built a reputation over time, just as news products on other platforms have. I also notice that a lot of blogs have begun looking for more first hand material and doing more analysis as the individual bloggers have gained in confidence, experience, ability and contacts – which again has increased credibility. Just as some newspapers suffer from credibility issues (e.g. tabloids) and some have strong reputations for credibility, over time you would expect some blog ‘brands’ to build credibility and others to suffer damaging exposes. Some blogs will also gain credibility through association with more established brands such as mainstream news operations – and in fact, many already do.

By the way, you might want to check out Chambers’ definition of journalism – “the profession of writing for newspapers and magazines, or for radio and television” – which settles it: blogging is not journalism.

But hold on, here’s G. Stuart Adam’s rather more scholarly definition (PDF):

“Journalism is an invention or a form of expression used to report and comment in the public media on the events and ideas of the here and now. There are at least five elements in such a definition: (1) a form of expression that is an invention; (2) reports of ideas and events; (3) comments on them;(4) the public circulation of them; and (5) the here and now.”

If the definition of journalism bothers you so much, I strongly recommend you read the rest of his paper.

Video tips from award-winning videographers

The joys of pingback have led me to the News Videographer blog – and just in time for my lesson this afternoon in Flash video galleries: Video tips from award-winning videographers, summarised from NewsLab. My favourite tip:

Don’t stop the action for the interview. “Go with the flow,” Tim says. “Try to ‘interview’ your subject while they’re doing what makes them comfortable, or doing what your story is really about.””

More relaunch raving

Meanwhile, Jemima Kiss is raving about the Newsvine relaunch:

“The most common request (they designed the site around what users wanted – how wacky!) was for a more customisable home page. “My homepage” custom options on other news sites aren’t really the answer, they argue, because most users still prefer the home page overview. The answer, they say, is a modular homepage that echoes something like Netvibes. The main blocks like top story and most popular seed remain, but after that things start getting draggable and you can close modules you don’t use.”They have added more localised content, which is very interesting – the last thing local newspapers need is a site as good as Newsvine muscling in. The site identifies the user’s location by their IP address, and then serves up local weather and news headlines from a few hundred local news feeds it has gathered.

“Other adds include a news in pictures features (which is great, because they aren’t afraid to use ’em big), a visualisation tool and an option to bring in any external RSS feed, and not just choose form the ones they list. That means I can add the RSS feed of my Gmail then. Must go home and play with this…”

Telegraph joins the ‘My’ trend

My TelegraphShane Richmond can’t wait any longer to shout about the upcoming My Telegraph feature, and who can blame him? The screenshot (left, and more on the Telegraph’s Flickr page) suggests this will far surpass MySun and MyExpress (although they are more ‘social networking’ services a la MySpace), demonstrating a deeper understanding of blogging technology than those services with use of tagging and a folksonomy, a personal ‘blogger network’ and an ‘agreement index’. Richmond elaborates:

“My Telegraph allows any reader to create their own blog, store all the comments they make on other readers’ blogs and save articles to read later. Version one of the site, which you can see below, will be ready to go live soon.

“There are even more features to come in later versions but we’re keeping quiet about those for now.”

Interestingly, Richmond mentions at the end that “My Telegraph is just a piece of a larger site”. Another relaunch?

Tutorials for online journalism goodness

Mindy McAdams links to Journalistopia’s impressive online journalism tutorials category, including:

“One I had completely missed: Quick HTML bar graphs with Excel, Table Tango demonstrates a very simple way to get a nice graph online fast.”Other tutorials he has featured teach us how to create nifty maps, use CSS better, and make Photoshop do lots of useful stuff apart from the usual dodge and burn.”

Marie Claire podcast raises product placement ethics

Women’s Wear Daily (not my usual breakfast reading matter) has raised the issue of magazine podcasting ethics separating advertising and editorial after Marie Claire’s Unilever-sponsored “The Masthead With Marie Claire” podcast featured repeated mentions of the company’s products.

“sponsored by Unilever with occasional chipping in by Diesel as “patron.” … Nearly every one of the eight segments so far has prominently featured Unilever beauty products in scenes with the magazine’s editors, and the most recent one included footage of the Diesel New York show, with Marie Claire fashion director Tracy Taylor explaining in the podcast, “What I love about Diesel….”

The article goes on to quote American Society of Magazine Editors board member Jacob Weisberg as saying “[Advertising] can’t include the editors and shouldn’t be produced by the editors.”

Of course fashion and women’s magazines have never been renowned for their editorial integrity or independence. And Marie Claire seem to think they can avoid the issue by claiming “ASME guidelines do not extend to podcasts and Webisodes.”

“‘The Masthead With Marie Claire’ is a podcast that is designed as a television show produced for the Web. From reality shows such as ‘The Apprentice’ to scripted shows like ‘The Office,’ brand integration is the norm.”

Nice try.

Marlene Kahan, executive director of ASME, disagrees. “The general codes do apply” to digital productions by members, she says.

“All online pages should clearly distinguish between editorial and advertising or sponsored content,” the ASME guidelines read. “A magazine’s name or logo should not be used in a way that suggests editorial endorsement of an advertiser. The site’s sponsorship policies should be clearly noted, either in text accompanying the article or on a disclosure page, to clarify that the sponsor had no input regarding the content.”

Seems pretty clear to me.