On the journalists vs. bloggers debate
By Paul Farol
Blogging is all about writing and writing is about composing one’s thoughts then rendering them in an understandable way. Photography is writing with images and it is about composing the image within a frame to form a thought or feeling. Video is writing too with a series of images showing motion, color, etc. It is about composing these series of images within a paradigm. Blogging is writing and bloggers are writers, first and foremost – ergo, you cannot have a blog and not know how to write or think.
So, it’s kind of hard for me to imagine a blogger who doesn’t present himself or herself as a writer — a composer of thoughts, his or her thoughts or the thoughts of someone else.
There’s no point, really, in pitting journalist vs. bloggers. Bloggers are journal keepers and there are bad journal keepers and good journal keepers, and that is essentially what journalism is — journal keeping. It is writing who, what, when, where, how, and why.
What I do see is a conflict between bloggers and REPORTERS. Journalists and REPORTERS or their older cousin, THE OPINION WRITER or COLUMNIST are different creatures.
The reporter actually doesn’t really have to have a mastery of the language they are writing with. If things haven’t change that much in the newspaper and TV industry since I left it years ago, the reporter usually starts out in the Police Beat and works up their way from there to the Political beats. The job is simple, go to a place and find out what happened. It is the editor who actually helps you compose or to some extent SUPPLIES your with the lead, and then works your report into the “newspaper’s style” according to “rules” which may or may not be “rules” at all. The worst reporters when it comes to writing usually come from broadcasting, not because of “the industry” but because of the “conventions” forced upon them by people who think they’re right all the time — because they’ve think that title confers competence. (This is another topic all together.)
Just think of the word “Exclusive” and how it is used to apply to almost EVERY SINGLE STORY. One News manager I know even insisted on having reporters intro their report by saying, “This is my FOLLOW UP REPORT” just to be consistent with the title of the news segment — whether or not it was an actual follow up story. Moreover, the News Manager said, “Para ang dating sa tao eh may nauna na tayong istorya, at follow up na ito.”
The SORRY result is that the reporters who complied eventually began thinking this was the RIGHT thing to do and so got promoted or landed jobs elsewhere, where they eventually became bosses and then taught their underlings the same crap.
Bloggers, sad to say, aren’t that much better than reporters. How does a blogger come into existence? Years ago, they logged onto LiveJournal or Multiply or what have you. They pop out of the blue, proclaiming themselves experts on one topic or another because they got wind that some other blogger actually became the hotshot in this “niche” or another.
It’s different, though, if you are already an established expert in a field who then results to blogging either because they’ve retired, gone on hiatus. Perhaps, they are simply blowing hot air or trying to build an image of professional competence and stack up popularity which they intend to leverage into lucrative gigs.
In the end, what really marks you as a journalist or blogger worthy of mention is the final product, nothing else. And the product can only be as good as the thought and actual work you put into it — unless, of course, you copied (or in blogging terms, “re-blogged”) it from someone else.
The only thing with bloggers is that they die off quite faster than reporters — because, if you’re great at following instructions from an editor, you can have a long career. Most bloggers stop blogging after a few months.
What pisses off reporters about bloggers is actually the same thing that pisses off veteran reporters when they encounter a rookie reporter at a press con. Veterans hate rookies who don’t know about what they are covering, or yammer on without asking a question, or ask a question that’s already answered or draw too much attention to themselves.
Generally, reporters hate bloggers because they think they’re not reporters because reporters are pack animals and the only way to get along with them is to be one of them, otherwise, you’re out. It’s easier for a rookie to be assimilated because their boss can call up the veteran reporter (who may actually be a drinking buddy) and then all is well. But the blogger, well, unless you are similarly connected — good luck with that!
Authority is often mixed up with popularity. Just think about Steve Jobs, is he an authority on computers or IT technology? Some people would think so, but ask an old school computer programmer and they’d talk about people who developed computer technology. So, authority, in a sense relative and I wouldn’t too much weight on authority. I look at how coherently and eloquently someone puts together an idea or ideas or attempts to dismantle/deconstruct/boil down an idea. I think authority is like a footprint, it is merely an imprint/the mark of vigorous and honest thinking. Rather than authority, I try to look at evolving thought — how one thinker wrestles with one idea or explores an idea or system of ideas.
That’s why I love challenging people’s viewpoints so I can see whether they are still thinking or just mouthing cut and dried dogma — like fanatics.
I disagree that bloggers actually write without an editor. We have editors inside our heads, beside us in our homes or offices, in cyberspace, etcetera… Yes, I am using the word loosely to refer to our need to belong (not only belong but be somewhat desired) and our desire for self-affirmation. I’ve heard hundreds of writers say they write solely for themselves and I assure you, that is BULLSHIT. Writers need have their writing read (otherwise, some of the greatest private poets should have burned their poetry as soon as they had finished it).
One popular blogger I know hates meeting up with other bloggers precisely because knowing them personally imposes a restraint on the blogger’s creativity.
But having an editor is not really having someone restrain you. Ideally, it should be like having an older, wiser, and more experienced hand that makes sure you stay true to your intent — even when you’re not completely certain of your intent at all.
Working under a real editor in a really professional environment will not only help you hardwire journalistic discipline into your information gathering, analysis, and writing, but it will also help you think vigorously all the time.
Paul Farol, a political blogger and veteran media practitioner, contributes articles for Get Real Philippines among other sites. Access his blog Pinoy Buzz here.