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So, you think you can be a Journalist?

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Then get blogging.

Blogging is no longer the industry’s dirty little secret. These days, it really seems like everyone – and their mother – has a blog. You can find blogs about pretty much anything, from dissections of the latest episodes of Glee to live updates on wars going on around the world.

But Meghan, you ask, If anyone can have a blog, how is that journalism? That’s an excellent question, and one that has the opinions of professional journalists split.

Since blogs can be run by anyone who can post pretty much anything they want, how can it be considered journalism? Who is a journalist and who isn’t if anyone can write a public blog and have it published?

Chris Pirillo, a media content specialist and founder of LockerGnome, tackles the issue on his own blog. As a new media specialist, he has a slightly different take on the issue than older-school print journalists. He claims that the main distinction between journalists and bloggers are that journalists are being paid, while bloggers “tend to write what they know, think and feel”.

Though Pirillo’s view on blogging and journalism isn’t wrong, he doesn’t take into account the large amount of journalists who are now blogging. While blogs may be more informal than a typical print news story would be and often contain the opinions of the individual writers rather than the larger news organization, they are still being paid to write.

Michael Poh from HongKiat.com thinks that blogging journalists need to look at the fundamentals of journalism and be more consistent with their posts. He outlines six things for them to look at:

  1. Headlines and Leads
  2. Brevity and Clarity
  3. Distinguishing Opinions from Facts
  4. Fact Verification
  5. Editing and Re-Writing
  6. Ethics

For the most part, I agree with this. Journalists, in blogs, still need to pay attention to journalistic standards on fact checking and ethics. It’s a system that allows for there to be distinction between certain types of blogs. Under Poh’s system, your grandmother’s cat-related blog would be considered different than an insider’s perspective on the treatment of workers in a sweatshop. For the most part, Poh’s six points seem fair, and generally would be good guidelines for a journalist to follow.

I’ve yet to find a better look at the journalism vs. blogging debate than Jacob Friedman’s piece over at The Next Web. Friedman has really done his homework; he examines opinions from both sides of the spectrum, ultimately deciding that it’s a combination of the different opinions. One great point he brings up, however:

“…when a blogger tracks down sources, does investigative reporting, and presents the facts clearly and fairly, that is journalism, plain and simple.” –  Jacob Friedman

It’s very hard to argue with this logic. Despite not being published through traditional sources, and perhaps not having the formal training that most journalists get in school, a blogger going through this much trouble to write a post is doing exactly the same thing that a print, television, or radio journalist does every day.

What it comes down to is opinion – as Mat Wright puts it, “ultimately the debate over how to define a ‘blog’ vs an ‘article’ is really between journalists themselves, and the relevance, or not, to their publications and mediums”. Lines are blurred and it’s hard to place everything into neat little boxes. Citizen journalism is on the rise, and

Mat Wright is on to something. Each blog, and each blogger, is different. Since the medium is so new and so diverse, it’s difficult to draw lines just yet. The journalistic landscape is definitely changing, and blogs allow for a greater amount of people to reach information and perhaps try their hand at writing something on their own.

Now that you know about the journalism vs blogging debate, here’s some great blogs for you to get started on.

  1. Journalism 2.0 is written by Mark Briggs, a journalist and author who looks and posts about the changing landscape of journalism as well as gives advice for people in the field.
  2. Mashable is a great example of how blogging and journalism can successfully mesh. The staff at Mashable blog about everything in the fields of technology and social media, two very important things that are changing the current journalistic landscape.
  3. Digidave is run by young journalist David Cohn, who has written for a ton of reputable places such as Wired and The New York Times. He’s a really interesting writer and is working to change the way media is consumed on mobile phones.

Happy blogging!

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