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Mar 27, 2008

Reality Television Comes to Journalism - Thy Name is Blogger

I've found, read, clipped, and posted articles from hundreds of journals. Here are my observations on how blogging has changed journalism.

Timeliness Versus Narrative

I've read and seen the conflict between casual bloggers and professional journalists. Silicon Alley and TechCrunch no longer wait for press releases and editorial review. They post news bits as soon as possible. Their productivity is 5 to 10 posts per person per day.

Days later, my Google alert service reports the same news from legacy publishing sources. They are too late. Google alert is too late.

About Voices at the Wall Street Journal

Because the site is wholly owned by Dow Jones, publisher of The Wall Street Journal, we aim to adhere to the journalistic standards of the best of the mainstream media. But, because it is run autonomously as a small online startup, we aim to exhibit the fresh thinking and nimbleness of the best of the new media. We want to be first, and sassy, but also well sourced and accurate. We will offer lots of opinion and analysis, but plenty of fact as well.

One week later, consultants, experts, and other writers digest the news to produce in-depth commentary. Good narrative starts the cycle among bloggers, legacy journalists, and more commentary.

I've adopted a writing process that is common among bloggers. Snips of news, stats, and quotes are posted immediately. Once a week, I digest the collected posts and write an in-depth how-to or analysis in narrative form - a process very similar to magazine and newspaper writing. Magazines may call them news briefs, columns, and features - but, the components are similar.

Thus, a blog has both the immediacy and frequency of content. In-depth narrative adds expertise that is often deeper than can be produced by a general journalist.

Is this Reality Journalism?

Beyond timeliness, bloggers frequently use first person notes. 

Similar to reality television where the contestants verbalize their emotions and thoughts through the battle, blog writing has become an open reporter's notebook - live with real-time interviews, thoughts, scribbles in the margins, and authenticated facts. I don't need the reporter's notebook and a filing cabinet for press releases. My blog is the notebook.

The final performances are the occasional posts that synthesize. Just like reality shows, real audiences shout and applaud - often in real-time. Of course, visits and page views don't have the same emotional high for the writer.

Lessons for Bloggers and Journalists

Is this an element of blogging that is overlooked by legacy journalists? Are movie fans only interested in the movies or are they as fascinated by the public lifes of stars? Rather than attacking blogs as amateur journalism, perhaps the writing personalities and process stirs as much interest as the results. Is the controversial Michael Arrington a star? Have we circled back to the beginning of newspapers when publishers were often more famous than their writings? 

Bloggers should heed Mark Cuban's warning that blogs lack journalistic brand. Separating quick clips from columns and features might be a good first step toward traditional credibility.

What do you think?

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