I’ve just been interviewed in order to give my opinion whether or not blogging is journalism. Since I run my own blog here I thought I simply explain my answers and take on that topic while blogging about it.
Some of the questions I have been asked are:
- Please explain some of your blogging activities (You may mention blogs that you write and read or your website)
- What do you think about Citizen Journalism? (Good or Bad?)
- Do you think blogging is journalism?
I will answer all those questions chronically. Let’s start from the beginning.
Please explain some of your blogging activities.
I do run a several websites and maintain a few blogs on some of them. Not on all since that would simply take too much time. I will try to explain a few approaches.
Why I blog
Some of my main blogs are on www.my-thai.org, www.sayfun.me or edtechworld.org. I maintain those blogs simply because I want to share my experiences and ideas on different topics. my-thai.org focuses on all things related to Thailand and Southeast Asia. From personal experiences over to op-ed articles on current issues or political and economical developments. sayfun.me on the other hand is my way of sharing my opinion and expertise on all things digital and new media related. This is the area I work in so I think that maintaining a professional presence in this field is helpful and gives me the chance to connect to like-minded people. Lastly edtechworld.org is about education and technology. Another area that interests me and where I am quite active in. This website also helps me to connect to other educators and share ideas on how to use technology in education. Obviously I could simply run one multi-topic blog but over time it turned out that websites related to one single area of interest work better. Besides that I also blog on other media outlets like medium.com or professional media publications (e.g. online magazines) in order to reach a broader audience and to connect to more people with similar interests.
While those outlets mentioned above are some of the projects that I try to update quite frequently I also have blogs on other websites that are mainly there to keep those website projects fresh and updated in order to give users (and search engines) a reason to return.
Why I read blogs
When talking about blogging it’s not only about writing and publishing on my own but I also do read a lot of blogs. Until a few years back I would follow interesting blogs in a feed reader (i.e. google reader) but ever since lots of those services have been discontinued I now use social media (Twitter, FB, Google+, Linkedin) to keep up and follow interesting topics and publishers. Following blogs simply has the advantage that you can get fresh and current content from people who are knowledgeable in their respective area of interest. While reading magazines is also a good way to improve ones knowledge blogs usually are faster in terms of publishing time and user interaction. This actually is one of the most important parts when it comes to blogs. Interacting with users in the comment sections. Some blogs do have a lively user base which discusses the topic in the comments and quite often brings another point of view to the table. Now one could argue what actually a blog is and what is a ‘real’ website or a magazine? Is my-thai.org still a blog or have we reached (since I’m also not writing alone there) magazine status already? Does that actually matter? I don’t think it does. As long as there are updated, current articles with the possibility of user interaction online I would count it as a blog or at least blog style website.
A very good example and one of my favorite websites to keep up with news and developments across Asia is Asiancorrespondent.com – lots of high quality content but the writers there still call themselves bloggers. The lines are blurring – and that probably is a good thing! More on that in the answers to the questions below though.
What do you think about citizen journalism?
I like it! I think it’s important and very helpful. Next question!
Well since this is a serious interview I should probably answer in more detail. First we kind of have to agree on what citizen journalism means. Commonly citizen journalism is considered the participation of the public in reporting happenings. Or, to quote wikipedia, “citizens playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing, and disseminating news and information“…
Having agreed on this definition it is easy to see why citizen journalism is an important part in our societies. Journalists are sometimes only able to cover topics from a certain point of view (even though they should be impartial) as a current statement on how the Bangkok Post operates states (http://www.cjr.org/criticism/thailand_bangkok_post.php) – this is only one example that comes to mind though. There certainly are many more and if you ask students who took my New Media Studies class they will certainly be able to give you more examples on that topic. #ArabSpring #FreeAJStaff #OccupyWallStreet #UmbrellaRevolution or even the happenings in Ferguson – just to name a few more examples that showed how important citizen journalism is. Without citizens who would have collected information and reported about current developments and issues the world would probably not have heard the truth about all of those events since most media outlets have been under governmental control. Thanks to citizens who risked their freedom (and sometimes their lives) we were able to see what was going on and to make up our mind on current issues.
Having that said it is obviously also important to being able to validate news sources. Over the past we also saw quite a few fake ‘citizen journalists’ who posted wrong ‘news’ online simply to gain attention or to confuse the public. This is one reason why many states, especially here in Southeast Asia, have strict rules when it comes to what one is allowed to publish. Nevertheless I still think that citizen journalism is important and that with an educated public false or fake news should be outed easily. The more ‘real’ information we have accessible, the better.
Do you think blogging is journalism?
That now is a good question and a question that follows most consistent bloggers around quite a lot. Very often countries only recognize you as a ‘real’ journalist when you are part of a journalism agency or organization and those organization won’t accept many bloggers. This is understandable since everybody is able to set up a blog and write about just anything. On the other hand there are blogs that spend lots of time on their articles (e.g. asiancorrespondent.com, my-thai.org), do actual research and have editorial meetings.
Therefore it is not easy to answer this question with yes or no. If it’s a blog that just rants about random things or posts daily cat pictures or food porn then I would certainly say that is not journalism. However that also goes for ‘yellow press’ magazines and newspapers (e.g. The Sun, The Mirror, TRS, etc.). Just because it’s a ‘real’ journalistic publication does not make it good.
If it is a blog that posts well researched articles (iflscience.com is another great ‘blog’) and demonstrates knowledge of the topics it covers then I would consider it journalism. Quite often those blogs show even better journalistic skills than big newspapers since bloggers mostly operate mainly on passion and honest interest.
Taking those three above mentioned points into consideration my answer would be: Blogging can be journalism. That is not a very satisfying yes or no answer but the only way to somehow come to a conclusion.
Since this is not a definite answer I wonder what do others think about it? What’s your experience or your opinion on blogging and journalism?