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Dana Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist for over 25 years and has covered the online world professionally since 1985. He founded the "Interactive Age Daily" for CMP Media, and has written for the Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age, and dozens of other publications over the years.
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April 29, 2005

Is Blogging Journalism?

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

rathergate cartoon.gifNext weekend I'll be at Blognashville, helping out the Media Bloggers Association, where the question will be asked again, "Is blogging journalism?"

Short answer. No.

It can be, of course.

When journalists blog, when we ask hard questions, dig for facts, and take mistakes seriously, well then yes journalism can happen on a blog. (Cartoon from Cox and,)

But a blog can be a diary. If you invite just a few people to post, and those same people are all who can read it, a blog is groupware.

A blog can be a community. Let a lot of people offer posts, organize the comments, add polls and ratings.

A blog can be your picture collection. It can be a record of what you saw today.

And that is not all, oh no, that is not all...

A blog can be a store. Put in specials, new arrivals, tips and techniques as your articles, link out to your inventory, put a cash register at the back, and voila!

To say that a blog is any one thing is to misunderstand what a blog is.

A blog is instant publishing. A blog lets anyone post any type of digital file -- text, pictures, sound, video -- simply, attractively, without having to know HTML.

To say a blog is journalism is like saying web pages are journalism. Journalism can happen on Web pages, and on blogs, in lots of places. Not everything that's printed is journalism. Not everything that's broadcast is journalism. Yet we have print and broadcast journalism. It's the same with blogging software.

What a blog is depends on the precise software being used, the person running the site, and what features they turn on. Look here -- no organized comments, barely a blogroll. Of course it's still a blog. Since it's done by a journalist, who is doing journalism on the page, it's both a blog and journalism. If the same person only put here pictures of their cat, or fictional stories they had written, it would still be a blog, only not journalism.

All blogging does is hide the complexity of the underlying Web format from the page creator. The software can let you eliminate gatekeepers -- Web designers, editors, publishers -- but if you like you can still have them. And more. You can run a whole staff, of any sort, on blogging software. It's all good.
chris berman.jpg
So is blogging journalism?

Stupid question.

Of course, as the journalist Chris Berman (right, from his alma mater) once said so famously in an ESPN ad there are no stupid questions.

Only stupid people who ask questions.

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | Journalism | Software | blogging | computer interfaces | e-commerce | ethics | personal


1. Rick Hallihan on April 29, 2005 11:02 AM writes...

Comments from January on this same topic:
"I left out any references to "journalism" in my original post, but given the recent focus on Citizen Journalism by bloggers like Robert Scoble I thought that maybe I should address this omission. Blogging is not journalism. Journalism is not a method of communication, but rather a type of message. You can use blogs as a tool for journalism, just like you can use them as a tool for humor, marketing, political influence, family communication, etc. The list goes on and on. The confusion arises when people start mixing up the message with the medium. Blogging is a unique medium that enables many types of communication. Journalism is one that it seems to be handling quite well, but pigeon-holing blogs-as-journalism, or blogs-as-marketing can confuse people who are trying to figure out what blogging is. Blogging is a tool, a medium. The message is up to you."

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2. Elana Centor on April 29, 2005 11:24 PM writes...


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3. Dan Janal on April 30, 2005 10:01 AM writes...

Definitions of journalism change over time.

In the 1700's newspapers were nothing more than lists of ships arriving and departing from harbors.

Journalism evolved or devolved into Yellow Journalism at the turn of the 1900's as Hearst and Pulitzer strove to sell newspapers based on sensationalism, not on facts.

When Dana and I were at Northwestern studying journalism in the 1970's, the definition of our professors was that journalism was a fair and balanced view of events with the reporter staying out of the story.

At the same time, "New Journalism" was being practiced by Tom Wolfe, Hunter Thompson, Gay Talese and others who most definitely were part of the story.

Then Woodward and Bernstein ushered in the era of Investigative Journalism, probably the Golden Age of Newspapers in my opinion as newspapers acted as district attorneys to root out corruption and win Pulitzer Prizes. The Philadephia Inquirer even had a formula for winning the grand prize: find a problem, expose it, offer a solution. pick up the prize.

At one time "women's pages" consisted of upper crust society news and recipes. Now the "lifestyles sections" that replaced them tackle difficult issues.

As for the role of bloggers, time will tell as to their place in society. There are genius bloggers, self promotional bloggers and quack bloggers -- not too unlike the media.

So keep an open mind on this topic as history has shown us that journalism has a sordid past.

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4. Chris Daly on May 2, 2005 10:18 AM writes...

This is a vital question, one that is not settled.
I agree with Janal that history can help us make sense of the issues involved. I teach a course in the history of journalism, and I have written on this subject, making comparisons to the 1770s and the writers of anonymous pamphlets who helped launch the Revolution. It's an my website:

My view is that the definition of a journalist depends on the activity, not the medium. Try this tentative definition: If you seek factual, contemporary truths for an audience (of any size), you are a journalist.

--Chris Daly
Boston University

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5. Karim2k on May 2, 2005 12:36 PM writes...

I don't share this point of view, there are constratsted truth around all that.

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