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How Are Bloggers Different To Journalists? Have your say:

Posted By Darren Rowse 23rd of February 2006 Pro Blogging News 0 Comments

On Sunday I’m on an informal panel that has the brief to discuss the following question, which I thought I might as well open up here for some discussion. Here’s the session brief:

In the US right now some of the most influential technology writers are not journalists, they’re bloggers. This session will look at how bloggers are different to journalists, what rules they play by and will look forward to how blogging threatens to change both the media and the public relations industries.

What do you think?

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
  • In the field of technology, a personal recommendation carries a lot of weight. Everybody who knows nothing about this stuff has someone they know who knows everything about this stuff and whose opinion they trust.

    Traditional media doesn’t tend to humanize its journalists; bloggers are very human, and at least in the field of technology, more trustworthy.

  • Ray

    I heard it on a blog so it must be true…..

  • Some bloggers are journalists. Check the dictionary, a journalist is someone who writes for, or on a journal (or words to that effect). Sure, bloggers are a different sort of journalist, and I’d say that not all bloggers are journalists, but those writing professionally, particularly at tech sites are.

    -They are paid
    – They follow rules
    – they are read

    And lets face it, its not as though journalists all play from the same rule book anyway!

  • It’s just a lower level of entry for bloggers than traditional journalists, but otherwise it’s a question of methodology. If you blog then you’re a blogger – who may or may not be a journalist. But a blogger also may or may not be a gardener.

  • Typical journalists in the United States, and I imagine elsewhere, have a mentality that is from an era where there was no competition. They come from an era that is not used to instantaneous fact checking and accountability. In the old era, a “misprint” that indicated bias in one direction or another could be printed or reported with no one but in house critics who mostly rubber stamped reports.

    In the age of bloggers and independent journalists, fact checking is in near real time and the networked nature of bloggers makes accountability critical or the inaccurate journalist will be publically flogged.

    Case Example: Dan Rather at CBS; Judith Miller (New York Times) and Robert Novak (Chicago Sun-Times). All publically outed in one way or another for inaccuracies in reporting.

    Now there is always room for genuine error, but professional journalists tend to forget the real-time nature of their reporting.

  • Barbara

    I hope people will forgive me for playing the role of devils advocate.

    Journalists are trained; Bloggers are not.
    Journalists have editors; Bloggers do not.
    Journalists are accountable; Bloggers are not.
    Journalists abide by professional standards; Bloggers do not have any of these set out
    Journalists are objective; Bloggers are biased

    And are not all bloggers pajama wearing, ranting, cynical teens?

  • Pingback: Technosailor » Journalists and Bloggers - Technology, Blogging and Politics()

  • TLB

    In a certain field that I cover, many journalists and newspapers print pure propaganda. Not just the occasional lie, but articles that could be paid by those who profit off a certain activity. In the case of one second-tier newspaper in a major U.S. city 600 miles from another major city (clue!), in 2002 they even worked with a foreign country to publish an article advocating for that activity. In the case of political news, W.R. Hearst is still with us.

  • Barbara (#6) – you were going so good till that stupid last sentence!

    Bloggers to me are part journalist / part columnist – in fact they could be seen as a hybrid of the two: many posts try to report an issue in a straight fashion and entwined within it is the biased commentary/opinion.

  • Barbara

    Devils advocates sometimes say stupid things in the attempt to get reactions. It doesn’t seem to have worked too well yet.

  • Many bloggers are journalists and vice versa. Both groupings are very broad and diverse, and both of them include people committed to truth, excellence and accuracy as well as lazy scandalmongers. One traditional difference has been that bad journalists run the risk of getting fired, but now, increasingly, that can happen to bloggers too.

  • Journalism is a career choice, blogging is not categorized in any such way. As of today, blogging is still nothing but a hobby…until someone somewhere classifies it otherwise.

    And Barbara does have a few valid points in her list supporting this.


  • I would highly disagree with Barbara on the editors and accountability. The blogosphere is the greates self-checking entity I know of. Just look at the Full vs Partial Feed debate. If a blogger of any significance (significant enough that people are paying attention to him) somes out and makes a claim, there’s going to be hell to pay in the blogosphere.

    The editors are their readers and accountability comes from other bloggers.

  • Jesse

    Journalists are objective; Bloggers are biased

    are you kidding me? Most bloggers certainly have a leaning,but they also admit it. When idiots like Dan Rather pretend to be objective and then make stuff up in hopes of bringing down the opposite political party, it’s rediculous that you should think he’s no biased. FOX is definitely skewed right in their political shows, but in their actual news coverage they aren’t biased. The other mainstream networks are all rediculously left

  • Journalists wear a tie and care about their appearance. I obviously don’t.

  • David Nick

    I have to disagree with what Janice said: “Journalists are accountable; Bloggers are not.”

    Bloggers are accountable. They are accountable to everyone that reads them, that participates. If a blogger posts an article that is total fiction (without declaring “Hey, this is a fictional story”) People will take them to task on inaccuracies. And trust me, with the blogosphere as large as it is, it wouldn’t take long for your credibility to sink into the sewer.

    Does that mean we get fired for misprinting or misquoting? No, we don’t blog because we make money doing it, we blog because we have something to say, want to be heard, and ultimately sway opinions one way or the other.

    It’s almost borg-like in the sense we are writing for a collective purpose, not just 1 dominate news source, or 1 corporate big-wigs ideal of what our news and information should be.

    As for technology blogging, I love it, I think that sites such as Slashdot are great for an overall technology source, but you can see bias in their writing just as anywhere else.

    Take the information you gleen from such sites with a grain of salt. When it does come to what to buy or what to do you’ll likely go to a geek you know in person for the facts.

    (Unless you know they have a blog site and write about technology )


  • David Nick

    Sorry, I meant Barbara :(

  • As a trained and fully qualified journalist with 15 years under my belt, I have to say that I increasingly turn to blogs, not journalism, as sources of information. I think what blogging is doing is wonderful. It is a true meritocracy. If your writing is good, you have a chance of getting read. In traditional journlaism, it really, really helps if you’re the editor’s nephew.
    I also find bloggers are far more honest about their disclosures, and generally more objective. Perhaps that’s because I’m from the UK where most of the press is, frankly, shockingly bad and intensely stupid.
    I hope blogging does threaten traditional journalism – because it needs shaking up and changing.

  • Joe

    Hey Darren,

    I am really supprised that no one mentioned the fact that quite a few blogs are Editorial Comments.

    Even some of the Tech Blogs give their opinion of how they think things could or should be done.

    Just my $.02 worth


  • AK

    Martin (#9) has a very good point. Bloggers are part journalist, part columnist, but more importantly, bloggers make no secret about having an opinion. The problem with MSM journalism is that it makes a big point of separating its news department (journalism) and its editorial department (columnists), but this is a holdover from the days when there was only one source of news in any city (the hometown newspaper), and people objected to the “yellow journalism” style of reporting – after all, if you only have one news source and it is biased, you really have no objective basis to understand the news.

    Now, there are literally millions of news sources available to everyone, and hundreds of MSM news sources available at all times, so if CBS wants to lean to the left and FOX to the right, who does it hurt? In a sense, this is actually a better way to get news, because each side lays out its best case and we the viewer – the jury – decide who is more convincing. Bloggers have biases, and (usually) admit to them; this makes them no less journalists. But the MSM should stop pretending it is unbiased.

  • Well, for one thing, journalists tend to have editors that will catch no-nos like “different to.”

  • dee

    I am both a journalist and a blogger. And from what I’ve read everyone has valid points on this subject.

    What I haven’t seen here is the fact that the EICs determine what news is newsworthy for their press. They determine what we stories we, journalists will cover. As a blogger, I make the choice of what I think is newsworthy.

    The publications that employ me sometimes slants their content to appease their largest advertisers. As a blogger, advertisers come to me, because my content fits their product or service.

    For journalists like me, having blogs balances things out in four ways:

    1. When my EIC drops another story idea that I pitched, I no longer get upset. Because now I can talk about it at my blog and wouldn’t have to kiss tail to do it, and might make more pocket change in the process.

    2. I don’t have to deal with a deadline. It gives me more time to fact check, collect more sources, and to write well.

    3. I can cover what’s important to me and use my journalistic skills to create great content for my blog.

    4. I don’t have to write very long to get good copy!

  • Ray

    Barbara Says:
    February 23rd, 2006 at 5:26 pm

    Journalists are objective; Bloggers are biased

    Now thats good comedy.

  • Ed

    How are bloggers different than journalists? As both a journalist and blogger I see both sides. Bloggers today are much like the first journalists which wrote letters or diary entries commenting on the days occurances. Some of the most fascinating examples of early journalism include first-hand reports of the Plague or letters describing a war or conflict. Bloggers are not journalists, but they have a chance to become them.

    Journalism today is a highly-specialized craft turned profession. Today’s journalists are trained and abide by a code (however questionable) of ethics. Journalism is not a hobby nor something you fit into your lifestyle, somewhere between your day job and nightclubbing.

    While bloggers today have a tenous and somewhat esoteric connection to their audience, journalists are directly responsible to an editor, who is responsible to an executive editor who is responsible to a publisher. Such strict chain-of-command often filters out errors, factual mistakes and problematic judgement.

    Can bloggers be journalists? Certainly, but it requires discipline and a decision to make fact-finding your primary goal. Regurgitating the AP, NYT or another news service without any original reporting is not journalism, but reprinting. It also requires blogging develop a critical eye. Too often blogger pile onto a mistake made by the mainstream media, but hesitate to criticize the faults of other bloggers, lest they be isolated from the sometimes incestuous rounds of self-congratulatory comments.

    Bloggers can be journalists, but first they must adopt some professional standards.


  • The editing process also edits out colour, life, creativity, expression, humour – a whole load of stuff.

  • “The editing process also edits out colour, life, creativity, expression, humour – a whole load of stuff.”

    Not at my newspaper, it doesn’t.

  • Any distinction between a blogger and a journalist is an artificial creation, fostered to create a sense of uniqueness that doesn’t really exist. They’re just writers. I blog, I write for a magazine and I podcast. They’re all just forms of media meant to allow me to communicate ideas to other people.


  • Ed

    Martin, you hit the nail on head: this bloggers versus journalists debate is an artificial argument. It reminds me of the endless ‘The Internet Will Kill Newspapers’ debates a few years back. When we step back from the ‘my medium’s better than your medium’ blather, we see both camps busy cross-pollinating. Mainstream media is borrowing some of blogging to enhance its immediacy and contact with the audience. Bloggers are taking some of mainstream media’s hallmarks and pushing beyond idle comments to breaking some news.

    Another point: have you noticed some of the best bloggers (content-wise) are also journalists? Journalistic training helps with tight writing, heds that cause people to stick around and insight that is deeper than the usual blogging. Its not coincidental. The other bloggers of interest are usually experts in some area, whether they are Google employees who can break some ground, a Microsoft person who can offer context or someone else with specific knowledge. Blogging has become another source for raw news, not simple babble about the day. As people begin to expect more from bloggers, the number of casual bloggers will level off and we will see the rise of another information source. Will bloggers live up to that responsibility, or simply become lost in an ocean of mediocrity? Now that is the question which interests me.