Bloggers as Journalists

Doc Searls and Jeff Jarvis call on bloggers to do some actual reporting. Doc’s premise is intriguing:

So here’s a controlled study. Look up Air America on Google, Google News, Yahoo, Yahoo News and any other search engine you like. Then look it up on Technorati.

What you see on Technorati is a lot closer to live for the simple reason that the searches are activated by RSS notifications. And, unlike Google and Yahoo news, blogs are not excluded. By virtue of RSS and its relatives, blogs are purposefully included.

So, as long as blogs remain illegitimate as sources of News to Google and Yahoo, the window is open for proving those engines wrong by doing some of their work for them. What work? Well, fisking what the major media say is a fine blog tradition, but deconstruction isn’t enough. We need construction too. Do we care about a subject enough to report on it, and not just to opine about it? Then maybe we should do the digging too.

Jeff adds,

Now there are a few speed bumps on the way to a blogger Pulitzer.
First is the matter of time and resources: Unless paid, most of us don’t have the the time or inclination to spend time reporting a story. But many would.
Second is the issue of access; when you call many a source and they ask where you’re from and you say, you may not get far. But I think that will change as sources (and flacks) realize this is a new way to get their stories told around the press. And I’m waiting for the first case of a blogger fighting to get press credentials for some official event; they publish and have a public like any other news media and should win that fight. Third, there’s the question of inclination. I think many bloggers assume they’re just not reporters. But reporting is nothing more than asking a question and reporting the answers. There’s no reason any of us could not go off seeking those answers.

I’ve spent a month harping on Howard Stern and the First Amendment but it wasn’t until a magazine assigned me to write a print story about it that I contacted a few experts (including fellow bloggers) and the FCC to get answers to questions. At least one commenter challenged me to do it before the assignment. I probably should have taken up the challenge; it would have made for a better argument and a better blog.

There’s a middle ground between doing no independent research and being a full-time journalist for no pay: covering things within your own areas of expertise and geography.

With the sometimes exceptions of beat reporters from the truly big media outlets, most professional journalists write mainly about things about which they have virtually no knowledge. Several, if not most, of the more prominent bloggers made their name writing about something they do or have done professionally–law, military affairs, politics, the mass media, the high tech world, etc. Nor does it have to be about one’s profession. There are humor blogs and other niches. Meryl Yourish has carved out a niche on all things Jewish. They exploit their networks and read materials that the general public –and, indeed, most reporters–don’t and then provide a useful synthesis.

Now, granted, most blogging is op-ed writing rather than reporting. But, then, most journalists just report until they can land a gig as an opinion journalist–preferably on television–anyway.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. I like to think that I actually fill a bit of the void identified by Doc and Jeff, as in this post, which includes original research. I use Nexis and other databases unavailable to many other bloggers. Then again, speaking from first-hand experience, it takes quite a bit of time. Hence my posts, as you may have noticed, are usually pretty long, and new material comes up only three or four times a day.

    Many times, I wonder if it’s worth it for me to put in a lot of time and effort. On the other hand, I’m much more comfortable blogging this way. My style is more suited to detailed posts. And, in the end, I just tell myself that I have to do what gives me satisfaction, even if my traffic suffers a bit as a result.

  2. delta dave says:

    hmmmmm… interesting. I guess bloggers who report news will have to start putting a disclaimer in their byline…. warning the reader that what follows is NEWS, not opinion.

    The world turned upside down. On one hand we will have journalist reporting opinion as news and on the other we will have bloggers reporting news as opinion.

    Actually, I think Searls and Jarvis are on to something…momentous … and another huge nail in the coffin of mainstream media and the way its always been practiced. Where are those buggy whips when you need one?

  3. notGeorge says:

    Yes, there are definitely some local stories that need to be handled which are entirely overlooked by the traditional media sources. Look for my thorough in-depth investigation into the cause of death of that dead armadillo next to the road just west of town. I suspect it is an overlooked case of animal cruelty and not accidental vehicular homicide as reported by our normal source of news, the old men who sit on the benches around the courthouse square, whittling and chewing tobacco.

  4. Mr Mouse says:

    What? I can’t simply scribble mindless mouse meanderings?

  5. Delta Dave says:

    notGeorge–Is that Vince Foster by chance?