In the middle of their story about the “vast wasteland of verbiage” produced by blogging, this weekend’s Financial Times told readers to go to a special blog to discuss the article. A lively discussion started online, and that was a good illustration of the nature of blogging.
The FT’s piece had the kind of thoughtfulness, elegance, research and careful editing which one seldom gets on blogs, signalling how much we still need well-run newspapers to signal to us what it is important, what isn’t and to convey it in a way that is readable and enlightening. But it was the very blogs being denigrated in the article which allowed commentators and analysts to engage in immediate and rich public debate around the issue with author Trevor Butterworth.
His article represents a new wave of realist thinking about blogs and the internet. Far from the over-enthusiastic and somewhat naÃ¯ve writings of the likes of Dan Gillmore in We, The Media, there is a new attitude that says blogs have their value, but they are also limited. Butterworth cites a well-known blogger: â€œThe democratic promise of blogs has just produced more fragmentation and segregation at a time when seeing the totality of things â€“ the purvey of old media â€“ is arguably more important.â€?
Are we ready to live, he asks, in â€œa world without war reporting, without investigative reporting, without nearly any of the things we depend on newspapers forâ€??
Online a debate started immediately, both on the FTâ€™s special blog about this article, and a number of other important media blogs, like CBSâ€™ Public Eye or Philip Lettâ€™s blog in which he argues:
â€œI think the real blogging revolution is not about replacing mainstream media, but in it’s first phase is about augmenting and challenging corporate media. And I believe the second phase of the blogging revolution will be about allowing anyone and their dog anywhere in the world to share in the wealth of the Internet.â€?
Two critical points emerge. The first is to see the value of blogging as an addition to and enhancement of more traditional media, rather than something that supercedes it or makes it less valuable or important. And the second is the importance of journalistsâ€™ blogs. By blogging, reports and editors will open themselves up to debate and scrutiny, will draw value from more immediate and fuller public engagement in their work and will enhance their journalism.
In short, blogging does not replace the rigours of journalism (checking facts, balancing, composing, editing, presenting â€¦) but it is an enormously valuable tool for those engaged in that work.