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November 30, 2007

The Times They Are A-Changin’


Our modern society’s growing dependency upon the internet has revolutionized the ways that we purchase goods, book travel, communicate, and recently with the advent of blogging, the way that we obtain news. Some have cited blogging as form of citizen journalism that poses a multitude of positive and negative effect upon the media. While print journalists have spent time and money acquiring the credentials they need to succeed in the industry, a large influx of untrained, amateur journalists have taken dissident approaches to delivering news. As bloggers do not have editors that filter and revise their stories, blog stylistic methods immensely differ from that of print journalism, yet a blogger’s ability to constantly update and revise content acts as safety net. While this makes blogs more prone to spelling, grammatical and factual errors, it simultaneously offers the reader an opportunity to deliver news in a creative, alternative and decisively dissident manner.

A Dissident Revolution on the Internet

When I began to write for TalkMonkey, I could not help but compare the content and style of my stories to the articles I wrote for The Eagle as a staff writer. I discovered that blogging’s free, lenient structure allowed me to employ more humor and personality in my stories than I was able to with The Eagle. In the Columbia Journalism Review article, “The New Age of Alternative Media,” author Matt Welch states that “with personality…comes a kind of reader interaction far more intense and personal than anything comparable to print.” (24-25) This heightened sense of interaction found online comes about through readers’ ability to comment on, critique and question my writing, whereas with my Eagle stories, the reader’s only option was to acquire my opinion. What ultimately distinguishes my stories for The Eagle from TalkMonkey is the notion of dissidence I felt while writing for the latter. However, it is this sense of journalistic liberation that triggers the most criticism of the medium of blogging. In his article, “What Journalists Can Learn from Bloggers,” Steve Outing states that “some bloggers are too quick to publish anything that falls into their laps – without bothering to vet the material to determine if it’s accurate, or to consider the consequences of publishing it.” (2) Outing suggests that with this freedom comes a responsibility on bloggers’ parts to “adhere to a mission of accuracy and accountability,” at least if bloggers want to be respected by their print journalist contemporaries. (2)

What distinguishes blogs from newspapers is the readers’ ability to interact with writers. Journalism stories typical end when they are published, whereas on a blog, a story is debated, further analyzed and occasionally revised. Blogs, more than ever, are “becoming the watchdogs that watch the watchdog,” and this is understandably threatening to print journalists, because in addition to reporting, bloggers are presented with the ability to write, edit, design, and publish on their own accord, and this can be seen in blog’s stylistic differences. (Skube 1) Blogs typically do not abide to the inverted pyramid style of news writing and tend to take longer to reach the story’s central point, and therefore, it is inherently dissident in its structure. For instance, when I wrote my blog post on Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s controversial speech at Columbia, I was able to employ humor: “I couldn’t help but feel as though I was watching an episode of Maury where some disgruntled housewife called out her unfaithful husband and had the paternity test results to back it up.” This obviously would have been deemed unprofessional had I written the same analogy for The Eagle, yet it undoubtedly enhanced my report’s personality.

After 9/11, there was a public outcry that “created a huge appetite on the part of the public to be part The Conversation, to vent and analyze and publicly ponder or mourn.” (Welch 24) In Outing’s account of “What Bloggers Can Learn from Journalists,” he included a quote from media executive, Jeff Jarvis, who prolifically stated that “news is a conversation, not just a lecture.” (4) Critics of blogging often view the medium as deeply biased, for most bloggers fuse news stories with their opinion on the matter; yet presenting an author’s opinion often triggers an emotional response from the reader, and blogging boasts a means of responding through debate. In their article, “Gathering Voices to Share With a Worldwide Online Audience,” Rebecca MacKinnon and Ethan Zuckerman conclude that bloggers are revolutionizing communication – independent of traditional forms of media – by drawing attention to widely-ignored issues and “to share ideas and brainstorm with circles of colleagues and peers who are interested in similar subjects or issues-topics that tend not to be a focus of mainstream media stories.” (46) It is ultimately this alternative approach of delivering the news that makes blogging dissident.

In lieu of the widespread decline in newspaper subscription and readership, some question if blogging will replace traditional print journalism. The fundamental problem in this logic is that it suggests that print journalism and blogging cannot survive together. Blogs are revolutionizing the way that we communicate, utilize media and attain news and blogging ultimately presents readers with abilities print journalism cannot alone. Considering society’s ever-escalating dependency upon the internet for news, it is imperative that blogging and print journalism not only exist harmoniously, but collaborate to offer readers thorough accounts of events that fuse facts, multimedia and creativity.

Conclusion: A Second Look at TalkMonkey

When I signed up for the humor section of the blog, I was not entirely sure what my duties would entail. At first I figured that I would have to search for befitting political cartoons and YouTube videos that denigrated politicians. When I wrote my blog posts, though, I began to discuss such hotly contested issues as homophobia, tasering and racism, and I discovered that I could easily explore the topics with the lens of humor. I felt that I offered an ample supply of the hard news one would find in a print journalism article, yet I spiced the stories up with a dose of humor. I honestly did not really notice how the rest of my humor group members handled their work, as TalkMonkey was an extremely decentralized blog; indeed, we had our duties, yet I found that most writers, including myself, tended to handle their stories through their own style and voice. This dispersed approach to posting posed some obstacles, as many writers were not sure when they were responsible to post. At the same time, though, this made TalkMonkey the experiment that it was. We were bestowed a great deal of freedom with our writing, and while this freedom was intimidating at times, it demonstrated how the media is evolving and our individual roles in the equation

Works Cited

MacKinnon, Rebecca, Zuckerman, Ethan. “Gathering Voices to Share With a Worldwide Online Audience.” Nieman Reports (Winter 2006): 45.

Outing, Steve. “What Bloggers Can Learn from Journalists.” Poynter Institute (2004): 4.

Outing, Steve. “What Journalists Can Learn from Bloggers.” Poynter Institute (2004): 2.

Skube, Michael. “Blogs All the noise that fits.” Los Angeles Times (2007): 1.

Welch, Matt. “”Blogworld and its Gravity”.” Columbia Journalism Review (2003): 24.

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