Friday, 1 May 2009

Blogs and news

Been a bit quiet recently, focusing on the day job. Allowed me to some time to reflect on how blogs and news works. At the moment, I am leaning towards the day job - hard news reporting - and question claims made by those that argue that blogs will ultimately do a better job.

The continuing challenge of good news reporting is well documented, and I'm struggling to see good internet journalism.

I thought this when I read Andrew Gilligan's article for Greenwich.co.uk which simply seems a repeat of the demented man's prejudices against the local council. But that said, he repeats much of the same unsourced partisan hackery for the Evening Standard newspaper too, so honours even I guess.

Then there are the hard-working souls at FT Alphaville. Much of what they report can be found elsewhere but in there are new angles, and indepth work. But without the discipline of a (word limited) newspaper, sometimes the journalists write curious articles like this, or rambling pieces like this.

I will shortly be doing some professionally blogging myself if I'm not careful, so I'll be looking not to fall into the same traps. Can't avoid either blogging or the mistakes I guess!

1 comment:

matt h2o said...

BBefore blogs - and before TV - print media had the greatest sway over public opinion. Those with the biggest printing presses had the most influence.

At some point over the last twenty years - and I suspect competition with TV had something to do with it - publishers realised that they could get away with publishing opinion rather than reporting facts, so they slashed their news teams and paid big bucks to columnists.

Blogs have made comment free to distribute, which is in the process of killing the business model based on purveying opinion.

Of course, the old guard are still in hock to the idea that they set the tone - and to a large extent they still do. Though ever less.

But smart readers who appraise their own sources are turning increasingly to bloggers, because they trust their own judgment better than that of buyable newspaper editors. And they stick with good sources regardless of which platform they're published on.

To take Felix Salmon for an example - particularly because he's a journalist blogger rather than a subject-matter expert (like the many academics who blog) - many of his readers have followed him from RGE Monitor to Portfolio and now to Reuters, mainly because he's smart, reliable, and usually has something to say.

And what I'd add is that when people trust you as a source, they forgive your errors more. They know information is imperfect, and so they know that you don't always know everything. But because they trust you they will accept that what you've written is the best you can do right now, and that you'll improve on it as soon as you get more info. Of course, that cuts both ways - you have to live up to their expectations.

I don't know how Reuters plans to make money from blogging. But I'd argue that what blogging has done is make information more about the quality of the individual source than the quality of the publisher. A smart publisher in such a situation would pay good money to hire the smartest people, and then monetise that through ads and syndication, I'd guess.

In any case, what Sullivan wrote was pointless waffle from the old perspective. The Alphaville guys sometimes write odd things, but they're pushing the boundaries and experimenting. I know which I prefer - and I know which I trust more (even though I take AVille with appropriate salt).