Another day, another set of questions from a journalism degree student – this time, one of my own, Azeem Ahmad. If you want to help him by answering the questions, post your comments below.
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.
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I totally agree with your answer to the final question. I still want to be a reporter, though, and it takes money to pay the bills. I’d rather blog and be a freelance feature writer than be in the mainstream, but I’d have to find out a way to make money at it. Otherwise my journalism degree will have been a huge waste of money.
I am a high school journalism student, and I am considering studying journalism. I am especially interested in convergence, technology, and the way it is affecting the idustry. Do you think that colleges are preparing journalism students for the new dirrection it is heading?
You probably know as much as me on this one. My gut reaction is to say No. But then I would also add that newspapers are not preparing journalists either. And perhaps none of us know what journalists will be like in 10 years. What’s your impression?
Well, I definitely think that we will see news and media focus more on Blogs and Social Networking sites, due to the sheer amount of traffic that they are receiving, especially as technology develops. As for student journalists, I think that some will embrace new styles of story telling while others focus on more traditional styles of journalism. However, I do think that our generation might be the one to make a shift from newspaper journalism to digital journalism in a big way.