Tuesday, May 24, 2005

[misc] Traditional Journalism and blogging

Blogging is still being touted as "the next big thing" and traditional journalism is paying more and more attention to blogs. Being contacted by the media about my blog has been an interesting experience. I can't help but respond to anything I think might expose more people to blogging and my blog in particular.

Where do you stand in terms of traditonal journalists--are they your colleagues, do you want to be a journalist, do you already think of yourself as a journalist, do you see a huge difference between "us" and "them", what would the ideal relationship between bloggers and journalists be?

Finally if you are a local Bay Area blogger, would you want to meet up with the local newsmedia? (I have an invitation on my site if you do) invite here.


drbiggles said...

Boy, this discussion sure comes up a lot. Don't it? I decided to punch in define:journalist in to google and it says a Journalist is someone who writes for a newspaper or magazine. I don't do that and I don't want to do it for a job. I would think most Journalists are hold some kind of degree and are excelled in the written word. I met Stephanie from the Grub Report over the weekend and she's got all kinds of smarts in her head. Her ducks are all in a row and quack when ordered.
The media is taking notice and publicizing us because it's making them money. Amanda didn't plaster my mug on the front page of the food section for fun. Trust me, if putting food bloggers on a newspaper or magazine sold no copies, we'd be right where we were 2 years ago or so. Happy, content and singing along nicely.


Kate said...

A Journalist can blog, and a blogger can do journalism, but the two are not exclusive to one another.

Blogging, in my opinion, is a medium unto itself. It has a different feel, taste, sense than writing for a newspaper or magazine.

Food Blogging is part of food media, although I think that many food writers are loathe to admit that of yet.

Having said that, I think that I feel a closer kinship to other food bloggers, even if their approach to food blogging is 180 degrees from my own. But I do feel like a colleague to other food writers in other mediums. I do diligent research, I set aside time to write, I test recipes. Just because I don't draw an income from these activities should preclude me from part of the food writing community.

Look at it this way...Clotilde from C&Z gets 40,000+ readers per week, a number that far surpasses many working food writers. To ignore or disregard that kind of readership is simple technophobia.

Derrick Schneider said...

I'd disagree with Dr. Biggles. Lots of journalists don't hold j school degrees, and probably a lot can't write worth a damn.

The main difference for me between my journalism (if that's what it is) and my blogging is that the blogging is more personal, and the journalism is more heavily researched because it's paid for. Research for my blog tends to draw from my personal research library and the Internet, whereas my journalism is based almost solely on interviews and research materials outside of my normal sphere (except for the bare factual stuff--geography, uncontroversial history, etc. ).

But my blog's wine tasting note exploration is a curious example. When I write one these days, I'm trying to call up the producer and do a quick talk at least so I can provide some context. This might just be a fifteen-minute interview, but it's better than just going with the non-engaging stuff on the bottle or the wine store's notes. So I guess to some extent that's wine journalism.

Sam said...

It's funny, but i feel like a magazine editor. I spent 9 months employed as a magazine editor for the crappiest magazine imagineable a long long time ago so this comes as no suprise to me. It was so crappy and small that i did everything for it but the graphic design. Every word written in it was mine. So that is how my blog feels to me, except now I have control over how it looks too. I would like to add that I bluffed my way into the editor job, just as I bluffed my way into getting a column writing for a British daily newspaper for a while. I have no official journalistic qualifications although it was my childhood ambition to be one and I spent some of my high school holiday getting experience at the local rag. I have a degree in media and communication which makes me slightly savvy to the subject of the media in general but not in the slightest bit well grounded in more traditional media practice.
My favourite about blogging by far is having the ideas for it, which is why I am imaginative but a little flighty. It would probably do me good to employ less haste and more speed and take more time over my writing, which I love, but often find myself hurrying. My photos suffer from that too (I don't like the dinner to get cold!) The results are weaker for it, probably, but have just so much material I want to get through and share, I kind of can't help it. I am thinking of slowing down, but i am still in the thinking stage.

I do not want to be a journalist. I would love to learn tips from them. Since I met the journalist who questioned me for the Chronicle I have learnt a thing or two about employed food critics and that was eye opening. I don't want to be one, that's for sure.

I think editing a magazine is a good job fit for me. However, since I now appreciate the immedacy of online media too much, I can't imagine ever being one. The turn around time is too long, so I think I'll just stick to being creative within the boundaries of my blog.

Amy - i also got that Kron 4 evite. I think I have to work that saturday. Shame as I am intrigued, though also cautious of their motives, you know, cynical old me...

Amy Sherman said...

So here's something I noticed--a couple of the "best of" in the SF Weekly were items written about almost exclusively by bloggers. A dumpling shop that Alder discovered and the taco I gave a Taste Everything award to was chosen (after 3 years in existence) as the best taco. Hmmm. Not that I think there's necessarily a connection but it's interesting to see where things pop up before making it into the mainstream.

Personally I think of myself as a columnist. The blog is where my column runs today, but someday, who knows? I read newspapers and magazines all the time, but love the fact that I am ultimately my own publisher and editor.

On the "what makes a journalist" thing, according to my husband who is a journalist, with a degree in journalim, the percentage of working journalists with degrees from j-school is very high.

drbiggles said...

Hey Derrick,

When I said, "most" journalists, I meant 50% or more probably had a degree. Having a degree in NO means makes you a decent writer. However, having a degree will get you a job that not having one will keep you out of. Once getting in the door, being as good as you are will keep that job.
I didn't mean to offend anyone.


Derrick said...

No offense taken by me, at any rate (I'm a bio major, by the way, never mind the computer programming job). It is true that a journalism degree will help get your foot in the door (or so I assume).

So I wonder what the proportions of journalism degrees are like in the world of food writing, which tends to do less journalism as I think of it. Most wine writers seem to burble up from the industry itself. But it'd be interesting to see how the food writing world breaks down, especially in the magazine world.

Sam said...

PS Amy - I meant to say before. I think of all the bloggers I know, you are the one with the most journalistic approach to it, and I thiink it's great that you do that. I guess you pick up some great tips from your husband. (whose name of course I remember but I am not sure if he prefers to be anonymous so I wont mention it here).
When you gave me that tip about getting a press pass for the Fancy Food Show I was simply amazed at how easy it was, so thank you or sharing.
For me, because this is a hobby so far removed from my career, I don't feel the need to be so highly professional in my approach to it. For instance, I think it is great that you deal with publicists and the like, but I am not comfortable enough to take my blog in that direction right now. It would intefere with my day job too much by taking too much time out of my working day.

Owen said...

Wow - a topic I know something about. Having been a professional journalist (in another area) for over fifteen years, I do know a lot about it. I have worked at the BBC and at publications with circulations topping 1.5 million, as a journalist, writer (not always, but often, the same thing as a journalist) and an editor and also on into puboishing management.

First, there are differences and disagreements about what a journalist is in and outside the US. It is harder to be a journalist in the US and harder still to really excel. In the US you are held to rules like three sources for any story that is not being confirmed by the official public source. You are expected to dig for stories - you not only protect your sources, you hide them from the ravening wolves that are your competitors.

Writer is a more general category - journalists are writers but so are op-ed people and columnists (many columnists are required to follow the sourcing rules too by the way) and feature writers and so forth.

Outside the US, these rules are much looser and vary in looseness from country to country. Many journalists, writers and editors have an obvious and even public bias - this is considered OK if it is general knowledge and acknowledged openly.

So - bloggers are obviously writers. But they are NOT journalists - no matter what the political blogs would like to think about themselves. When a blogger gets big and powerful (Clotilde in our world) she or he becomes a real factor but they still aren't a journalist. They are not answerable to a supervising body or person except in the same ways that everyone is answerable to society's rules and laws.

It is also possible to do and be both, but not actually at the same time.

I also strongly feel that journalism as a whole, particularly in the US, has lost its way. Investigative stories are frowned upon. Reporting is more and more restricted to official sources only - effectively becoming a mouthpiece for that official source. Critical faculties are curtailed. And the decline in journalism is one reason blogs are becoming more successful.

Sam pointed out the critical analysis of SF restaurant reviewing recently. I agreed with much of it although the writer is overbearingly pompous about style. After reading it (and with my knowledge of the area and restaurant reviewers in general, I would say that there are several bloggers in this forum that could make it onto that list - maybe not at the top, but at least in the middle of the pack.

But I think bloggers are much more than that - they go where traditional media won't go and so they are already now leading the way.

Joy said...

I was barely into my blog before Mesh magazine contacted me about writing a column. I've never considered myself a writer and mostly started my blog to entertain my friends who were constantly asking for restaurant recommendations.

That said, I have no degree and I do not go to the lengths a traditional journalist would. For example, I feel no obligation to visit a restaurant three times unless I don't feel I've tried everything I want to try -- if it's bad once, I don't see a need to go back. I'm also up front about this on my blog so there are no illusions that I'm a true blue journalist in the holiest sense of the word.

My response to a particularly nasty piece of hate mail was "I'm a restaurant whore, not a restaurant critic." I'm just trying to be a voice of the people. The fact that a magazine wants to publish that is just a side bonus for me. And since I usually do a theme with the print articles (best desserts, etc.), I don't run into as many issues of stepping on the toes of someone who loved the restaurant I trashed.

Does this make sense?

Joy (Restaurant Whore)

paul said...

I'm amazed at the mediocrity of most of the food blog articles. I seem to give them good quotes and good blogs to recommend, and they always wind up copying the same article from some other paper that their editor gave them to use as a guide. An online article copied my entire list once, complete with CSS mark-up!

And don't get me started about main stream media sites that don't link to any of the sites they talk about. It's 2004, they shouldn't be afraid of external links anymore.

And another thing - the last three articles I've been included in have had major fact errors - bad URLs. Getting an URL wrong is like getting an address or a name wrong. When I went to journalism school (ok, I admit, photojournalism school) that was called an F-error and you failed the assignment if it had one.

One writer told me that they weren't going to bother to get a "tech" to fix a bad URL in an online edition of her story, because "it was just a feature article"

Besides all that, I think blogging has an edge over "food journalism" because of the freedom, orignality and personality. That said, very few of us are doing any "journalism" as Owen defines it, with the possible exception of something like the US Food Policy Blog or perhaps Romensko's Starbuck's Gossip.

Amy Sherman said...

Actually, it's 2005! But you're right about the other stuff.

paul said...

See? We all need editors once in awhile!

Mimi said...

An observation: I'm about a 15 months late to this post, but as a J-school graduate, a working journalist, a college journalism instructor, and new blogger, I can tell you this:

Overall, I've seen more more interesting and often technically superior writing on blogs than in many newspapers.