I've pretty much avoided the issue of whether bloggers are journalists or not. That's because in my mind, the question itself differs, depending on who's asking. Which is why there probably won't be a definitive answer. Sometimes the person asking is coming from a standpoint of, "Are bloggers a threat to the media industry?" Sometimes it's more about, "Can a blogger reasonably expect to have more readers and be more authoritative than a hard-copy newspaper?" or even "Are bloggers better-qualified or more ethical than paid reporters?"
The answer can be always yes, or always no, depending on who is having the conversation, and why they feel the need to discuss it.
There's a post over at the Scobleizer, where he says:
So, are webloggers journalists? Some are! Are they editors? Some are! Are they weirdos? Some are! (Look at me) Are they small in numbers (when compared to the overall population)? Yes! Are they passionate? Yes!
Why do I love webloggers? Because they are among the most passionate people in society. I've met the world's most passionate lawyers, doctors, librarians, politicians, journalists, editors, socialites, managers, executives, technologists through weblogging (some as writers, some as readers).
The more I weblog and get pulled into these arguments, the more I realize that most people don't really understand what's going on in this new world. It scares me, because when someone says "when are we gonna go mainstream?" they are asking me "when are you going to get the non-passionate involved?"
I really don't want that to happen. I'd rather get everyone to be passionate about something. That takes time, but it means that we won't have to dumb down our world to make it more palatable to those who aren't passionate.
I tend to have a different view of blogs than many people. That's because I came late to the party, just a year ago, and I was looking for something to save my e-mailed newsletter and/or keep me from abandoning the Internet altogether for promotional purposes. My intentions were not about a need to express myself, or share my personal opinions with anyone. I had plenty of outlets for that. It was more about getting myself and my fellow book authors out of the doldrums. Too many authors were sending too much cash and effort into black holes -- websites that went unvisited and unpromoted, or echo chamber discussion groups, neither of which do anybody much good, when it comes to presenting yourself to the world.
So when I stumbled across Scripting News one day, I could see immediately what I needed to do, and other applications for blogs came to me as time went on. Almost every time I saw another use for blog technology, I could find somebody doing it. I saw blogs as a great way for writers of all kinds of material to promote their work, get some quick feedback (which we authors of fiction seldom get, immediate or otherwise) and even improve our skills. This could happen in a high-profile way that could benefit the writers, their potential readers, and the whole creative community.
How does this relate to the bloggers-as-journalists debate? Weren't these same questions posed about static websites years ago?
I think the debate itself stems from the fact that blogs are being well-noticed among the Big3, and that's causing some ripples of apprehension among the bean-counters and bottom-liners. Where's their market share going? How much do these upstarts, who are unrestricted by questions of tradition or economics, have to do with the shrinking readership and viewership of the elder media?
Sure, the questions were asked back in the day, but the answers back then weren't as pertinent as they are today. The Internet ten years ago was a still an item of novelty; it was a rare individual who could build a website and also provide professional-quality news or commentary of wide interest. Today, the need for two sets of well-developed skills is unnecessary as blogs allow just about anyone to create a website. So we have far more writers experienced in a variety of subjects and approaches setting up blogs, or seriously considering them.
The middleman is going away. Those with a need or interest in approaching large numbers of people with an idea can now do so with a minimum of barriers. The last barriers will go down as more efficient networking between TV and computer is worked out, and things that are now the province of serious geekdom become as commonplace as setting up a blog. (With a nod to Robert Scoble, I don’t know whether that qualifies as “dumbing down” or not.)
This will force changes in the way all media – not just the news sector – does business. The healthy, apparently growing niche of the leisure industry, which has resulted in dozens of cooking and home decorating TV programs and hard-copy books and magazines, might be the next to feel a bit of concern over the DIY creators. If passion is the key to early adoption, then the hobbyist bloggers have it in spades. It’s not much of a leap these days to expect some early adopters to begin creating their own videos on things like knitting, which could work well in closeup to demonstrate a technique.
Ever since the cable industry began promising public access to broadcasting in the late 70s, people have been waiting for their chance to get their word, or their interests, out to the world. The Internet and blogs are part of that. Right now we’re in the midst of a blog explosion, as many people try out blogs, and sometimes expecting them to be a magic thing that somehow does the writing for them. Of course we know the technology doesn’t do that, but there is always that hope whenever something new comes up. So right now there are zillions of abandoned blogs, but that doesn’t reflect on the “quality” of blogs, or the value of the technology, even though our detractors attempt to use that as a point on occasion.
There will always be those who produce, and those who are consumers, or customers. Not everybody can be creative in a consistent, practical, way, so the customer has an important part in this as well. Whoever figures out how to give the mainstream public what they want will be the winners in all this. After all hard-copy newspapers could come up with a brilliant idea that makes the immediacy and variety of blogs pale in comparison.
We just don’t know. But it sure is fun watching it all evolve!