Newspaper Blogs a Bad Idea
Editor & Publisher’s Graham Webster argues that newspapers should give up hosting their own blogs but instead focus on do
Among forward-looking media thinkers, many of them with more experience in journalism that I have on this earth, I have developed an apparently unpopular opinion. The blog craze has prompted dozens of newspapers and other news outlets to produce or plan blogs for their own Web sites. Inevitably, the argument is that it’s a good way to reach young readers who rarely buy the print edition. My heresy? Blogs are a horrible way to deliver journalism. Forget them.
This is not to say that I don’t read them. For someone sitting in an office looking for story ideas all day, blogs are great. You can check back with them every hour, and if the folks behind the blog are tireless, something new will have appeared. But you can say the same about many news sites, including E&P Online.
Are blogs journalism? How could the answer be anything but an emphatic “sometimes!” Blogging is a medium, and some journalists use it to deliver their work. But the coming generation doesn’t use blogs to get their news. Some young political junkies (read: political science majors and student journalists) have the time to plow through the likes of Wonkette, Talking Points Memo, and Andrew Sullivan’s blog. For most of us, however, we want a page with what print designers would call multiple entry points. We want to see the most important news on one screen, ranked by an editorial filter we trust.
That’s why people between 18 and 34 are 35% more likely to get news at least once a day from a portal site such as Yahoo.com and MSN.com than from newspapers (or their Web sites), despite the fact that newspapers are considered just as trustworthy, according to a newly released Carnegie Corporation study.
Blogs are popular among some readers because they’re fast, and bloggers often have a voice and attitude young people can enjoy reading. But blogging is an unfriendly medium. No one wants to have to go through clunky archives to try and find background coverage, and no one really wants to synthesize a bunch of chronological entries into a coherent view of the day’s news.
Webster omits the most obvious reason papers should eschew blogs: Almost all institutional blogs are horrid. With the exception of a handful of sites that have hired established bloggers (e.g., WaMo’s Kevin Drum) there are very few of those blogs worth reading. They tend to lack a coherent voice and the frenetic updating that marks the successful sites.
It’s true, too, that blogs are not going to replace newspapers or even news aggregation sites. While one could read InstaPundit, OTB, and a handful of other sites and have a pretty good idea what’s going on in the world, it’s only to the extent that we’re a non-mechanized form of news aggregators.