Saturday, December 29, 2007

If it’s blogged, is it news?

Recently I had the privilege of covering the Massachusetts Conference for Women as a reporter for Bay State Parent magazine. Over 5,000 women filled the new Boston Convention Center to hear from such luminaries as Washington Post journalist Anna Quindlen, former CBS News anchor René Syler, and business gurus Jack and Suzy Welch, as well as a host of other speakers with useful insights on a range of issues affecting women. You’ll be reading some of the highlights in upcoming magazine issues, from managing your money to juggling work and family while remaining relatively sane.

As I checked in at the press room to receive credentials and program information, I casually glanced at the list of who else from the media was registered. Names from the Boston Globe, Herald, and other print media surprisingly didn’t jump out at me. What did was the number of bloggers.

Somehow over the past few years, everyone’s a blogger and bloggers have become journalists. I’m not sure that’s a great thing. Don’t get me wrong: I’m no Luddite decrying new technology. Blogging brings grassroots views and essays to wide – but segmented – audiences, and that’s all good for democracy and for creative outlets. Blogs can provide on-the-spot commentary and current resource information like recall lists and calendar events. And blogs provide a way for the public to interact directly with the media.

But are blogs reliable news sources, with the kind of broad-based reach that provides a common ground for understanding and discussion?

I feel reassured knowing that there’s an editor looking over an article to review for basic things like accuracy, not to mention spelling and grammar. I’ve read many well-written blogs (hopefully you think Bay State Parent’s fits that category), but there are countless others that are incomprehensible. And although the news media have been rightly accused of bias, news is still supposed to be “just the facts” while opinions go on the editorial page or in columns. Blogs have virtually erased the line between news and opinion: Who’s to say what’s real and what’s my personal perspective? Buyer beware.

Quibbles about truth in journalism aside, the sheer overabundance of blogs means most people won’t read a particular blog. I wasn’t familiar with any of the blogs listed for reporters at the conference, and when I later checked one out, I found it was targeted to the niche market of twentysomething women living in Boston. The blogger may have written beautiful, accurate, insightful prose about the event, and most women in Massachusetts wouldn’t have a clue.

Blogs-as-journalism are here to stay, and just as we can’t turn back the clock to the time before cable TV, when everyone watched one of five channels and Walter Kronkite, Tom Brokaw or Peter Jennings gave us the news, we can’t assume that everyone gets her information from established news-gathering organizations. But I hope that bloggers and blog sites strive to uphold the standards and responsibilities that have been the bedrock of a free press since the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That would be an information revolution.

1 comment:

mrs. parker said...

I don't think bloggers are taking over the world, I think more companies and events are realizing it's yet another way to get the word out. Maybe some of those 20 something woman from Boston saw the post about the event that wouldn't have seen it otherwise. More exposure, instant exposure.

More and instant- two words our society seems to live by.