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Sunday, October 03, 2010

Blogging and Journalism: Amongst the Best the Line is Blurry

With easy internet access and free blog hosting sites many people are sharing their thoughts on different topics. Some share their special interests and form groups. Others publish their creative writing. But the biggest beneficiary of blogging has been journalism - specificallycitizen journalism and its impact on professional journalists.

At this time let us get some descriptions out of the way.

Journalism: reporting, writing, editing, broadcasting, as an occupation.

It flows from above that a journalist is a paid reporter working for a media organisation or as a freelancer for several media organisations. He may directly report on news or may interpret news and write view points and investigative reports. He is usually a specialist who covers a specific field or interest.

The journalists are covered by a code of conduct by the media organisation that employs them or it could be self imposed. They are team players.

A blogger could be any person who has access to a PC and internet, has a host blog and writes entries in it. They are the solo fliers. Generally, there is no compulsory code of conduct, though this distinction is increasingly getting blurred as journalists working for major media organisations are encouraged to have have their own blogs.

What is this code of conduct for journalists? Broadly it covers accuracy, objectivity, truthfulness, fairness, and impartiality. For a more detailed examination you can read the codes for Al Jazeera,CBC and BBC in order of complexity and depth.

The fault line is ever shrinking between Blogging and Journalism. Blogging - specially News and Political blogging has come of age. Gone is the period where it was words and opinions essentially unsubstantiated and based on murky half baked thoughts or hearsay borne out non-conviction and lacked clarity, vision and conviction.

Journalists - serious journalists - even if they are freelancers abide by a code of conduct, keep slant or bias to a minimum, language straight forward and error free.

In the earlier days bloggers were deemed to be free of any constraints. It was their blog, they could write whatever they wanted, they thought.

I once rejected a shoddily written, plagiarized article. The writer submitted another atrociously written article the next day. I patiently pointed out the deficiencies and errors in detail and suggested a serious re-write. He submitted a third article that was also filed under G. He complained.

In his defense the writer claimed all those articles were found acceptable and published at another site and provided a link to it. It was another site that hosted member blogs and his "articles" were "published" on that site under his blog! He was subsequently caught for plagiarizing, sacked and all his articles deleted from that site.

Today, bloggers have matured and an increasing minority is serious about their writing. And their efforts are being recognized. Read this: A Landmark for Bloggers — and the Future of Journalism.

The journalist also has a distinct advantage over the blogger. He has support of the organisation - editors, fact checkers, proof readers all help in delivering a good copy.

The blogger in most cases is on his/her own. That makes the job not only arduous but also more interesting and gratifying.

As the lines get blurred between good journalists and good bloggers, the bottom lines becomes clearer - the best among both are those where the writing is well grounded in facts, clear, lucid, precise, objective and geared for the target audience.


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