Blogs are dead, long live blogs!

guardian-logoI noticed a couple of interesting posts on blogs which at first glance seem to contradict each other, but ultimately say the same sort of thing on blogging.

They focus on those two international media powerhouses – The Guardian and the New York Times.

Over at Journalism.co.uk, there’s a post on how The Guardian’s new environment blog network brings writers from around the world to add expert commentary alongside news reporting. The article loooks at Why the Guardian has ‘given bloggers the keys’ to its website.

Margaret Sullivan’s public editor’s journal on the New York Times runs a headline: Are Blogs Outdated? The Times Eliminates Several, and Explains Why.

Let’s look at the Guardian first. Experimenting with collaborating with bloggers and the mutualisation of journalism isn’t a new thing – they already use independent bloggers to supplement their science coverage and, of course, there was the Guardian Local collaboratiove journalism experiment of which I was a part which ended a couple of years ago.

The environment network follows its existing ethos model – it incorporates experts in their field to offer specialist knowledge in specific areas. The Guardian boldly says that these paid bloggers are the experts in their community of interest. They’ve been handpicked out of 800 applicants.

I don’t particularly disagree with their stance. These ghuys are managed at arms length and are trusted in their fields. They are experts on their topic. They know much more about it than I would as a jounrlaist if I’d been asked to cover that topic. They’re not replacing journalists, they’re supplementing and enriching what journalists do, giving depth of coverage while feeding into the Guardian’s unique open journalism ethos, which sees journalism as a collaborative process with the reader and the public.

The role of a journalist isn’t just a narrator of news, but a curator – I’m particularly struck by the mantra ‘do what you do best and link to the rest’. There’s certainly a lot of added value for the reader in that.

“So when we’re covering a big environment event in the normal way through the normal journalistic channels,” says environment news editor James Randerson, “they could augment that and supplement that with information and opinion and comment and analysis around the edge of that.

“There are some stories that we just wouldn’t be able to cover with the number of people and resources that we have … so having more specialist bloggers who can get into areas that we wouldn’t ordinarily be able to adds to the richness of coverage on the site and allows us to provide quite an impressive offering for people who are really interested in this area.”

The only note of caution I’d sound is that they’re able to publish direct to the website without editorial involvement and they’re not desked or subbed as such. The bloggers may well be experts in their fields, but do they have enough journalistic skills to know their contempt from defamation? Their ‘balanced’ from ‘unbalanced’ posts?

I’m all for bloggers adding their expertise, but they do need a watchful eye and be edited. I learnt that from experience while on Guardian Leeds – we once had a post written by student bloggers about the EMA protests and it was inaccurate, libellous and had some very basic errors re  spelling of names. I was there to provide the proper journalistic checks and that’s nimportant.

Publishing directly onto the Guardian site may well perfectly well for this particular topic, but there are surely wider considerations if this was to be brought in on more Guardian platforms.

nyt masthead

While the Guardian ploughs ahead with its daliance with bloggers, blogs and blogging, the New York Times is ditching some of its blogs, seemingly claiming ‘blogs are outdated’.

Most of its blogs seem to be run by its journalists and it seems resources are being allocated elsewhere. No such open journalism ethos here, it seems.

Managing editor Dean Baquet says:

“Blogs proliferated early on because they were seen as a way for desks and subjects to get into the Web game. They taught us a different way of writing and thinking, created a way to move fast on coverage. But I’d argue that as we’ve matured, the sections themselves now act like blogs.”

It’s an interesting argument, is the platform of blogging an outdated way of communicating with modern audiences?

If you read Baquet’s comments again, you’ll actually see that he’s paying the more informal style and ethos of blogging a huge compliement. He’s not dissing blogs, he’s actually saying that the blogs have had such an influence on the NYT’s mainstream journalism that they don’t actually have to run blogs or specific blogging platforms any more. He points to how their main sports coverage has evolved to a level where running a blog actually duplicates its main news offering.

So rather than it being an article criticising blogs or blogging, it’s actually confirmation that blogging is no longer something that the socially inept do in their basements, it’s a part of mainstream media offering. It’s part of journalism. And I believe it enriches and supplements and influences what journalists do and how they cover stories.

After all, the NYT and Guardian both can’t be wrong, can they?

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