The Truth is Out There – and It's in the Comments
I was directed by Chuck Peters to a thought-provoking article on Fred Wilson’s blog A VC called “Avoiding the Big Yellow Taxi Moment.” The article discusses what some people call “the death of journalism” and the “rise of the blogger”. Fred makes some very interesting points about the evolution of the microjournalist and if there is in fact, a business model to be found anywhere in the blogosphere.
There are a number of great comments on the article, from journalists and bloggers alike, and they are well worth perusing as well.
One of the main arguments when it comes to blogging vs. journalism is that true journalism is seen as being based on the journalist’s efforts digging into the story, connecting with people inovlved on both sides, and delivering a balanced, unbiased representation of the facts. On the other hand, blogging is all about one person’s (or a group of peoples’) opinion. Since it’s entirely opinion, then I, as a blogger, am not considered a journalist. But, I am providing information – like a journalist does. I am telling at least, my part of the story.
When I write here, I am writing what I think about things. Do I do research? Absolutely, when I am stating facts. If I don’t know something, I provide a link to the person who does. That’s the way, in MY opinion, that I think bloggers stay credible. Does that then make me similar to a journalist?
That’s where the line starts to blur.
I’m not here to say that blogging and journalism are the same thing. They are not. But in the comments of Fred Wilson’s article, Jeffrey McManus makes a really compelling point:
So rather than asking the question “What can we do to preserve journalism as it is today,” it may be more correct to ask the question “What can we do to hasten the demise of journalism as it is today so we can start over with something better?”
As Dylan so eloquently observed, the times they are a’ changin’. Online communities, social media, social networks, heck, the World Wide Web itself – has fundamentally changed the way people tell stories. Forever. So, perhaps, as Jeffrey McManus points out, it’s time to mourn the so called “death” of traditional journalism as we know it. Why? because, until now, I’ve never had this much access to information. And not only that, I’ve never had so much ability to interact with those that are providing the information. And therein lies the difference.
If I read an article on the web site or in the newspaper of any major news outlet, or watch a news story on TV, or listen on the radio (I am speaking for Canadian news outlets here), I have a certain level of confidence that the story is going to be well researched, fact checked, and show somewhat of a balance. In my country, things like the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) exist to help facilitate this kind of fair, balanced journalism. Note I said “facilitate”, not “ensure”. In my opinion, unbiased and balanced journalism may be strived for, but these things are not always guaranteed. (Feel free to disagree with me in the comments on that one if you like.)
If I read an article on a blog, I am subjecting myself to that blogger’s opinion. Most bloggers (even the ones who are, or have been, journalists), make no qualms about the fact that what they are saying is their own view. Sure, many bloggers do research. Many bloggers check their facts. But, many don’t. And it’s up to me, as the reader, to determine the authenticity of their claims. There’s no CBSC for bloggers.
But here’s the kicker.
Let’s say I read someone’s blog, and I KNOW something they’ve said to be untrue. Let’s say I decide that they’ve only told one side of the story. I now hold the power in my fingertips to immediately and completely react.
Within seconds, I’m writing a comment. I’m stating either what I (in my opinion!) know to be untrue, or I’m telling my side of the story. And, other people can comment too, and tell their truths, their sides of the story. See what’s happening here? The blogger may have been one-sided. They may have not gotten their facts 100% straight. But, the commenters ensure that the whole story gets told. Tell me that you haven’t ever had the feeling that the comments on a blog post were more relevant and valid than the post itself?
This…THIS, is how journalism is going to change in the 21st century. Of course, the million dollar question is, how do we build business models around a bunch of people’s opinions? If journalists adapt, what happens to standards? Well, I agree with Fred Wilson when he says:
I am not sure that anyone has the answer to this question and that’s why it’s bothering so many people right now. I’m an optimist and I think we’ll work it out.
Maybe that sounds like kind of a Polyanna attitude, but I honestly don’t think we’re far enough along in the evolution of the Web yet to have it figured out. We’ve got mostly the thirty and forty-somethings and some of the boomers dominating the social media space right now. We forget that we have a whole other generation coming up behind us that have very different habits in terms of how they get their news. They have very different opinions on what constitutes journalism.
The dust will settle eventually. A new era of journalism will arrive, just like it arrived hundreds of years ago with Gutenberg, and just like it arrived again when radio, and then television came along.
The new era of journalism is not going to look like the old ones. It can’t. As with any type of change, it’s frightening. Some will win. Many will lose. Its those who are prepared to roll with the punches, innovate and overcome that will be standing tall when it’s all said and done.
And, like any blogger worth their salt should, I now turn it over to you, in the comments.