How important is blogging to you, and your business?
If my ‘business’ is education and freelance journalism, then: enormously important on every level: generating ideas, gathering information, publishing stories and ideas, and marketing and distributing those and, I suppose, myself as a journalist and (*cough*) academic. I find conversation extremely helpful in working through ideas and finding new information, and blogging is a wonderful way of having that conversation with some very well informed and intelligent people. I hope it makes me more intelligent and well informed in turn.
Why do you think blogs are so popular?
To read? Because they allow niche publishing on areas that aren’t necessarily widely covered. Because they have personal voices and not institutional ones. Because they rank highly on Google and so are easy to find. Because they are inherently social and tend to be passed around. Because they are generally more about usefulness than news values.
Why do you believe that so many people now have blogs?
For the same reason so many people have conversations. We like to talk about things that interest us, we like to connect to people who are interested in the same things. Some of us even like to work through ideas. There’s also that instant feedback thing where you realise people are talking back.
What do you understand by the term ‘Citizen Journalist’?
Oh God. I treat it as a broad term covering anyone not employed professionally as a journalist who produces journalism materials, whether that’s photos or video of a newsworthy event, or blog analysis or commentary. But I think we’re wasting valuable time if we fuss over semantics.
Do you think the events of 9/11 in New York catapulted UGC, and blogging into the mainstream?
For some people they clearly did. For others the July 7 bombings were key, or the Asian Tsunami, or Virginia Tech. There have been a few key events, each bringing UGC and blogging to new audiences. And then a long tail of millions of smaller events where people have only found news by going on blogs.
How importantly do you value UGC (User Generated Content) such as photos/videos that are sent in by the public?
As a consumer of mainstream news I tend to find them generally quite ‘fluffily’ treated, as a novelty. For big news events the tone changes to one of ‘authenticity’ and drama, but that can still be offputting. They are much more interesting and valuable for me when published in contexts designed for UGC, e.g. Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, blogs. On those places there is no one with a megaphone telling me how I should interpret this media.
Do you see blogging as an alternative to traditional journalism?
I see blogging as a challenge and a complement to traditional journalism. Having news coming from outside of a commercialised, bureaucratised news industry, outside news cycles, is enormously important. The shift in the balance of power so that readers can highlight the inaccuracies of journalism, or add useful context, without having to write a letter to the editor, is much needed. Having voices from outside the media industry is important. And having journalists whose success is based on their relationship with their readers rather than their relationship with their editor, is refreshing. Traditional journalism can learn a lot from all of this.