The third part of the results of my survey of blogging journalists looks at how blogging has affected how stories are researched.
As journalists move onto gathering information for a story, the scope of easily accessible sources is made broader by journalists’ involvement in blogs.
It may be that in some cases the process of ‘having an idea in public’, as highlighted in part two, means that story research is increasingly done by readers before, or alongside, that done by the journalist. Once they begin pursuing a story journalists are using the blog format as a way to ‘put the call out’ for information and sources while they work.
Although journalists asking members of the public for information on a story is nothing new, the nature of the relationship appears to be different, in that it is a two-way, ongoing process:
“On hot-button stories where our readers are asking a lot of questions, we post updates every time we make a phone call. For example, [a company] declared bankruptcy and the new owner wouldn’t take the previous owner’s gift cards. Our readers were peeved and hounding us to do something. The corporate folks weren’t saying anything so we didn’t have any new information to report. Because we didn’t have any new info, we didn’t write anything in the paper. But on our blog, we would post updates at least daily to tell people when we left a message and if we had heard back yet. We eventually scored an interview with the new CEO and posted it in its entirety on our site. Another reporter saw it and called us. We swapped info. Our readers also post links to other stories on the topic from other news orgs.” (Respondent 63, US, newspapers)
In some examples, this collaboration becomes a form of crowdsourcing:
“Last year, there was a vote in the Senate to oust Renan Calheiros, the chairman of the house. The votes were kept in secret, and he was absolved. Interviewed, much more senators would say they had voted to oust Calheiros than the votes the proposal actually got. So, I proposed that readers contacted the senators to ask them about their reasons.” (Respondent 24, Brazil, freelance)
As highlighted previously, blogging journalists report finding it easier to find sources who don’t come from a government agency or professional association, and to keep up with events they are not participating in.
Many post links to original material and ongoing updates as they research, or to reports on stories that they do not have time to follow up.
But for some the pressure to publish meant more reliance on rumours, and less rigorous research, with the onus placed on blog readers to clarify and fact-check.
On a practical level the actual process of newsgathering is also changing as a result of the demands of the blog.
Journalists report being more likely to gather multimedia material such as images, video and audio to post on the blog – or, in the case of broadcast journalists, to gather more material than they used to, as there is now a platform for material that wouldn’t otherwise make it to broadcast.
“It ensures avoiding that trap of TV reporting,” noted one: “one sequence, two interviews and we have a story without digging deeper.” (Respondent 156, Belgium, TV).
More detail is shown in the following tables:
Has blogging affected how you gather information on a story? Let me know in the comments.