Don't confuse blogging with real journalism

ON BLOGS

March 19, 2006|By TROY MCCULLOUGH | TROY MCCULLOUGH,SUN COLUMNIST

For all the hype that blogs signal the demise of mainstream journalism, now comes this not-so-shocking revelation: Bloggers do very little of their own reporting.

Included in the Project for Excellence in Journalism's annual State of the News Media study was a look at seven of the most prominent and influential current-events blogs operating today. The study tracked the blogs' content on May 11, a day chosen at random.

The result: The sites offered illuminating commentary, vigorous debate and intelligent criticism on the day's news. But as for the actual reporting of the news, the sites relied almost exclusively on traditional media outlets - newspapers, TV and radio reports and wire services.

"We found little of what would be considered journalistic reporting done by these bloggers, as in examining public documents, conducting interviews, or acting as a direct witness to events," the report said. More than three-fourths of the day's posts involved no higher reporting than commentary from the blogger, the report said, and barely 5 percent of the posts included original research.

None of this should be a surprise to most people - including bloggers themselves. But the study should throw some cold water on those few who are still under the illusion that blogs are on the verge of assuming their rightful place at the top of the journalism pecking order.

The seven blogs highlighted in the study - Instapundit, Little Green Footballs, Power Line, Talking Points Memo, Eschaton, Daily Kos, and Crooks and Liars - and many other sites have carved out a prominent and well-deserved role in the public discourse in just a few short years.

They've highlighted stories that have been undeservedly overlooked. They've exposed inaccuracies in print and on TV. They've given a voice to people with informed and enlightened opinions on the day's pressing issues. And on occasion, they have done original reporting.

But for the most part, the fuel for their fire comes from the unglamorous journalistic legwork done by their old-media counterparts, a point bluntly underscored last month by former Gawker.com blogger Choire Sicha.

"As for blogs taking over big media in the next five years? Fine, sure," Sicha said in an interview with Trevor Butterworth for the Financial Times. "But where are the beginnings of that? Where is the reporting? Where is the reliability? The rah-rah blogosphere crowd are apparently ready to live in a world without war reporting, without investigative reporting, without nearly any of the things we depend on newspapers for. The world of blogs is like an entire newspaper composed of op-eds and letters and wire service feeds."

Old-fashioned journalists, it seems, may have a few years of life left.

Lost camera returned

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the saga of Judith Zissman, whose digital camera had been lost in a Hawaiian park, then found by a Canadian family that refused to return it to its rightful owner.

Well, Zissman reports on her blog, lostcamera.blogspot.com, that the Canadian family has relented.

"Thanks to the perseverance of amazing people at the National Park Service, the camera has made it home," Zissman gleefully wrote, without much elaboration.

She promises more details - and pictures - in the near future.

troy.mccullough@baltsun.com

Listen to Troy McCullough's podcasts at baltimoresun.com/onblogs.

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