Sunday, June 12, 2011

Be a Jourblist

Question: Is "blog" a bad word?

It's certainly used dismissively by beacons of the traditional media world, who frequently see blogs and social media as pesky, Napster-esque flies to the real champions of thought and journalism.

In Evgeny Mozorov's book The Net Delusion, he writes of the online world as a playground for "a bunch of bored hipsters who had an irresistible urge to share their breakfast plans," while Andrew Keen in Cult of the Amateur claims all the online revolution is delivering is "superficial observations of the world... rather than deep analysis."

Too often, I have to agree.

Now that anyone can self-publish, unsurprisingly, the level of poor-quality writing sinks the playing field in broader perception.

While planning to make today's speech on "research" at TBEX'11 in Vancouver, I started to think "blog" needs an alternate name. A "blog" would remain the outlet for casual posters, sharing photos and online travel diaries with friends and family. But something else would be needed for those of us who treat blogging as journalism, as a potential for work.

So, until a better suggestion comes along, I'm suggesting this:

A couple years ago, I chipped in on a NPR panel after three Americans were detained at the Iraq-Iran border. A former CIA guy dismissed them as "Berkeley bloggers," suggesting they were poking around a place that's marked with a very clear border. "They had to know they were crossing into Iran," he said.

Before going on air, I had poked around Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, and found a blogger who had been recently to the same area, had photos of the region. I contacted him and asked, who told me, "I almost made the same mistake. It's very very difficult to know where one country begins and the other ends."

Not full-proof journalism, but -- unlike the CIA spouter -- he had actually been. So I quoted him.

Either way, I think it's time more of us try up our game. And never treat a blog post as "just a blog."

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