A few months ago “blogging” was word seldom used in my vocabulary. When I pictured a blogger, an image of a brooding adolescent detailing everyday woes on a laptop came to mind; little did I know I would be identifying myself as a blogger in the upcoming semester. I soon realized that blogging is more than a diary; this new form of media has successfully made waves in American society. Blogging, whether concerning politics, environmental issues, or fashion, is about stating one’s agenda, opinions, and critiques in order to propel some kind of change. Blogs are now being brought up in legal issues, written about in national newspapers, and in our case even brought into the classroom.
While blogging started off as a form of dissident media it has evolved into a type of mainstream media. It is easy to find a blog on almost any topic by quickly doing a Google search. While there are some political blogs in circulation to make a daring and different statement, most are likely to be discussing the same issues that appear in the Washington Post each day. Surprisingly, many bloggers “reject the label ‘journalist,’ associating it with what they contemptuously call mainstream media,” (Skube). Apparently the horrors of admitting to being “mainstream” far outweigh the benefits and respect that come with the title of journalist; perhaps bloggers just understand that it is not a title they have truly deserved or earned. Bloggers are not journalists. For the most part, they “have all of the liberties of a traditional journalist but few of the obligations,” (Skube). Bloggers do not have editors, deadlines, word limits, or even a specific topic to cover. Bloggers can write without any restraint on their emotion or language because at the end of the day, unlike a journalist, their jobs are not on the line. A Washington Post article on legal issues and bloggers quotes lawyer Martin Garbus as saying, “I would define a journalist as someone who brings news to the public. It’s a definition that might cause journalists some discomfort because it opens up the gates,” (Kurtz). While some bloggers might be skilled at writing, most are unlikely to have the same training and proficiency as a journalist. Garbus’ definition means that any person rattling off information on the internet can be considered a reporter.
Since bloggers have clear differences from journalists, it is unfair for them to be legally tried as a journalist would be. Bloggers do not have the option to join the Writer’s Guild and do not have the same legal protection as a journalist. Some instances contradict this (as of 2006 bloggers are protected under the California state’s reporter shield law), but generally bloggers have different rights than journalists. This became an issue when Josh Wolf, a 24-year-old blogger, was placed in jail for refusing to hand over a videotape he shot of a violent demonstration to the mainstream media (Kurtz). Wolf says there was an understanding of the confidentiality of certain footage between himself and those demonstrating. The filming taking place publicly in San Francisco, along with Wolf’s lack of journalistic merit, are two strong forces against him in this case.
Previously I was careful to state that blogging has become a “type” of mainstream media. From what we have learned I think that some blogs are mainstream and some are dissident, just as there is The New York Times and underground newspapers. Perezhilton.com is merely a tabloid posted over the internet. However, I did encounter many intelligent, well written, original, and opinionated blogs in my research. One in particular was redstatediaries.blogspot.com, a political commentary by an independent residing in Alabama. Blogs like this pinpoint what bloggers contribute to journalism and those reading them; “personality, eyewitness testimony, editorial filtering, and uncounted gigabytes of new knowledge,” (Welch 24). Blogs should not just be there to report; they are meant to bring up issues the blogger feels mainstream media might have missed or glossed over, while at the same time conveying humor and human interest. They do not need to be perfectly edited, full of impressive quotes and pictures. Blogs can only be dissident through their imperfection. Blogs are “a reminder that America is far more diverse and iconoclastic that its newsrooms,” (Welch 24).
While I am not falling on my knees to worship bloggers, my opinion of them has changed throughout this semester. Sitting at the computer late each Thursday night, trying to come up with a topic that was not only newsworthy, but interesting, proved far more difficult than I would have imagined. I can appreciate the time and effort it keeps to maintain a blog. Even more so, I recognize the ambition and dedication it takes to gain a following to read your blog once you have worked the kinks out of it. I still do not see bloggers as journalists, but I do think they play an important role in the media.