There are few technologies that can actually boast of the proliferation of the blogs and its accelerated rate of its adoption, or simply claim to have a very profound effect on the interpersonal discourse (Lowrey 2006). Blogs are web pages in which entries are arranged in reverse chronological order (Blood, 2002). This blogging phenomenon as has occurred in relation to news or communication industry has opened up many fresh opportunities for new news suppliers and the established news providers to reach more audiences (O’Reilly, 2005). Since the early 1990s, blogs have gained popularity, and a recent Pew Internet and American Life report claims that at least 57 million people read blogs (Lenhart, 2006). This essay will discuss whether blogging represent a threat to traditional journalism. Further, the paper will discuss the consequences of blogging as well as what it adds to the fourth estate. It is worth noting from the onset that by using both theoretical aspects and factual evidence, the essay argues that indeed blogging represents a threat to traditional journalism.
The fact that some qualified journalists joined the community of bloggers has eroded the distinction between journalists and bloggers. Thus, users are beginning to trust bloggers as they earn credibility. Journalists and bloggers hope then that their quality will rise to the top and that blogs conveying news can have the same credibility as that attached to mainstream news providers (Berlind, 2005). Topics of the blogs do range widely but some of them have got narrow focus while others are inclusive of a mish-mash of the subjects. In any perspective, blogs are non-synchronous and very interactive Web-Pages whose hosts are reported to post messages and consequently invite discussion around a given theme or issue (Lowrey 2006).
In conceptualizing the motive for individual media use, the approach by McQuail (1983), who distinguished the main motives for using media and communication technologies as for information, for personal identity, for entertainment, and for integration/social interaction is referred to. This theoretical perspective is applicable because blogging is part of personal identity and integration or social interaction. There are several studies that have been carried out due to the popularity that has been enjoyed by the blogs (Lowrey 2006). The studies have explored the various contents of the blogs (Lowrey 2006), their motivations, their routines, as well as the perceived credibility, among several other things (Lowrey 2006). As studies on the blogging grow, so is the need for carrying out a study on whether blogging represent a threat to traditional journalism. The most fundamental question that should always be asked is whether it presents a given challenge or opportunity to the various journalist as well as their organizations. Bloggers, journalists, as well as the media scholars have often seen it in both ways (Lowrey 2006).
Blogging represents a threat to traditional journalism, this is true in that the information and topics in the news oriented blogs are reported to be similar to the ones in the traditional news content that are sometimes uncomfortably very similar and are meant for the same masses. Some of the scholars have argued that the blogs are a representation of the force that will definitely end the reign of sovereignty of journalism and subsequently bring the inherent weaknesses of journalism to the limelight and benefit the society (Curran, 1998). The watchdogs have actually developed a way of tracking the news that is covered and shaming the various journalists into carrying out their jobs better (Lowrey 2006). Nonetheless, the journalists are reported to have traditionally viewed the online journalism as very unprofessional (Lowrey 2006).
On the other hand, the other journalists are saying that the debate that is surrounding blogging and journalism has become false and tired (Lowrey 2006). They are from the school of thought that both the two sides should have come to a realization that both their work is actually complementary (Lowrey 2006). Since the bloggers are in most cases dependent on the mainstream or simply traditional journalism for their different contents which aims to meet the needs of the readers who are social in nature (Bregman and Haythornthwaite, 2003). Moreover, the heavy users of the blogs are also the same users of the traditional news media (Lowrey 2006). Indeed, even the individuals who are seeking the journalists-bloggers harmony recognize the fact that blogging has the ability of changing the operations of the news organizations and even making a complete transformation on the way journalism is being practiced (Lowrey 2006).
There are various consequences of blogging to the traditional journalism in the contemporary society. The weblogs are increasingly being understood as the sign or symbol of the overall cultural trend that turns the audience into a very active producer of the various sorts of the content from the fan replicas of the movie narratives to the consumer reviews (Matheson 2003). In this perspective, several weblogs within the cyberspace are very irrelevant from the point of view of the journalism. Just the way the individuals do on the paper or other media, as well as in the weblogs too, the groups and individuals also publish various contents that actually represent literary forms other than the journalism (Technorati, 2008). Nonetheless, based on an investigation carried out on the different types of the journalistic relevant blogs, a conclusion can be drawn that blogging as a phenomenon seems to have touched the sphere of journalism in different ways that are very relevant to the particular future of the journalism profession (Matheson 2003).
The first consequence is that several weblogs have openly challenged the institutional or simply professional journalism through offering of either complementary or competing information regarding news as well as current affairs and the raising competition (Bennett & Entman, 2005). Wilson Lowrey has indicated that the bloggers have actually exploited “jurisdiction vulnerabilities” of the professional journalism to actually “poach” some of the different types of information that often include partisan expression, the old stories, the stories that are driven by non-elite sources, as well as highly specialized content” that was neglected as a result of the standardized production schemes as well as the organizational constraints (2006; 477). Consequently, a number of the web blog writers see their different sites as a critique of newspapers and the television. Meanwhile, some have emphasized the speed with which weblogs have reported events and others praise the depth and thoroughness with which a network of web-bloggers has followed up a story (Matheson 2003, p.36).
It is further reported that such kind of thinking values the web-blogging through the bringing together the conventional ideas of the quality journalism. This criterion of quality is that of being factual based, up to the moment and which is consequently in-depth with anti-establishment, the anti-corporate liberalism of such kind of much commentary on internet (Matheson 2003). This has brought about a particular threat to the traditional journalism as it were in the mid-1990s. In the 1990s, the fear was simply the fact that blogging was likely to take a very huge chunk of the readers from the existing traditional media (Youngs, 2007). It is noted that people tend to trust the news media that they opt to use or use most often. For instance, online news users such those accessing blogs have been found to trust online news more than television news viewers trust the television news and more than the newspaper readers trust newspapers (Abdulla et al., 2005). This is a big threat to the traditional form of journalism. In a nutshell, the privilege of the traditional journalism of setting the agenda is increasingly being challenged by blogging, and the blogosphere is establishing the alternative modern affairs agendas (Matheson 2003) that is collectively defined by the bloggers as well as the social online tools they incorporate in searching and consequently ranking the content.
The second consequence is the fact that weblogs are threatening to actually expose the traditional journalism at one of its very weakest points which is its lack of the personal contact with the readers (Matheson 2003). Unlike the traditional journalism, blogging is actually participatory. Firstly, the stories reported at the weblogs are in most cases published by the individuals who have them been involved in the various events that are being reported. This contradicts the widespread understanding that the proper journalistic materials can only be produced by the trained observers (Matheson 2003) and not by the participants.
The weblogs are also participatory in the perspective that they have allowed and consequently invited the readers to converse among themselves on the various issues that are being reported. In this context, the weblogs are reported to “draw on idealizations of the internet as a form of democratic space in which all social actors’ voices can be heard, and where the audiences become an active public” (Matheson 2003, p. 34). Applied to the journalism, this particular participatory nature of blogging indicates that informing individuals on the current issues should actually be objective in the extent of being estranged. Instead of actually lecturing, traditional journalism should be more conversational, and currently the weblogs have been showing effective way of making a realization of this particular ideal (Kunelius 2001).
The very challenging nature as well as the participatory features of the weblogs is what bring this paper to the third consequence where the traditional journalism as well as the weblogs seem to actually meet. Indeed, the weblogs are questioning the very ownership of the traditional journalism on the actual level of the profession. The traditional journalism is reported to have been tied to specific organizational forms; the journalism is specifically what is published by the media (Kunelius 2001).Since the term gatekeeper was actually invented in order to decide what should actually be known by the public from the media industry, how and when is reported to have been a very crucial part of the particular professional role the various journalists (Kunelius 2001). The role of the gatekeeper is enforced and maintained by a given set of professional conventions and roles that are actually said to constitute a sort of the quality control mechanism within the constitutional journalism.
Nonetheless, the exclusive rights to the gate keeping as well as the dedicated working practices are actually being removed away from the professionals and consequently unashamedly adopted by the publishers of the weblogs. They are reported to be “…playing an active role in the crucial process of collecting, reporting, sorting, analyzing and in the dissemination of news and information” (Wall 2005, p.154). Thus, it can be noted in a nutshell that the newcomers are reported to be performing the same routines as the professional traditional journalists.
The process of global communication which entails the notion of social relations (Giddens, 1991) has benefitted from blogging. This is a form of threat to traditional journalism as it enables social relations to be stretched across time and space, as it leads to the development of a global public sphere (Sparks, 2001). This is possible as through blogs individuals are able to share news and experiences throughout the world at ease which was not easy using the traditional forms of journalism.Another aspect which is in line with the global nature of communication is the way blog reporting can iterate which is unlike traditional media whereby once an article has been published that’s the end of it. This in a way has posed a threat to traditional media where journalist’s investigative role may have been curtailed. With blogs, one can start with something which is not fully formed, which can be improved overtime by various participants and the blogger. In an effort to fight off this challenge journalists have been forced to improve on the quality of their work, which is good for the profession. A downside, to this is that they end up in the long run reducing on investigative journalism.
It is also important to note the issue of time and temporality of blogging, as it is usually carried out at any time making it possible for people to get informed faster unlike the traditional journalism where news tends to take long to reach the consumer due to bureaucratic procedures for approval by the editorial team (Castells, 1999). The editor response often determines when news gets to the reader; whereas, the blogger can upload his news piece as soon as he wants it. The issue of the temporal nature of news communication which is applicable to blogging is also a relevant theoretical perspective as posited by Peters, (2003). This is because communication often takes place through various media but is common is time and space. For news to serve its purpose effectively, it ought to reach its audience in a timely manner. The emergence of blogging therefore, presents a new faster medium for relaying information in direct competition with the traditional journalism avenues.
While a suggestion has been made by Lowrey (2006) that the institutional apparatus of the journalism actually guarantees a given percentage of control over this particular menace of blogging, Wall (2005), on the other hand, makes a proposal that the new normative definitions of this particular profession that is based on the philosophical and ethical principles are actually the only ones that can accord the journalism the raison d’etre within this digital era.
Meanwhile those are in the traditional journalism, particularly those who are reported to be caring deeply regarding what is actually happening to the media industry should actually be grateful to the existence of blogging as it provides political space and democracy (Dahlgren, 2001). At this particular time when the media control is very concentrated and consequently the presentation of the balanced and fair news is becoming another way of limiting voices and subsequently disguise a political or corporate agenda, bloggers are actually the dam-busters of the media industry. They have managed to blow the open holes within the gatekeepers’ firewalls in order for the voices that are being silenced or ignored to find the various ways of being heard (Kunelius 2001).
An emerging view is that blogs may not offer pure news but could have an important role in assisting news consumers to organize, interpret to make sense of the large volumes of news facilitated by the internet (Wired, 2006). This is achieved by opening opportunities for news consumers to engage directly with traditional news producers and have a chance to respond directly and publicly to the news from professional journalists. Such developments have underlined a sea of change in journalism whereby journalists no longer have the sovereignty over content creation (MacKinnon, 2005). Since, blogs have created a new public discourse around news that has opened up the formation and the framing of news reports to a wider constituency that now has the power to change news (Coleman, 2005).
Finally, it is significant to indicate that the other consequence is the fact that it has been underscored that the web-blogs have actually not been anything outside the institutional media as well as its traditional journalism. Various news media are reported to have included different kinds of the web-blogs in their different online sites. In some of the cases, the media web-blogs are actually constructed as the online spaces where the journalists as well as their audience can actually meet and subsequently engage in the conversations regarding the news issues (Wall 2005). In this particular way, the web-blogs are internally impacting on the re-shaping of the online journalism, therefore offering examples of the new available genres.
The essay has discussed whether blogging represent a threat to traditional journalism. Further, the paper has discussed the consequences of blogging as well as what it adds to the fourth estate. The development of blogging as well as the online journalism is reported to be mutually linked, however this is still a very open process that has not been able to show increased clear trends. The particular typology that has been proposed in this paper is very significant to the researchers who are determined to explore the actual extent to which the consequences of blogging to the traditional journalism as profession are redefining the profession. Furthermore, it also explores the influence of the institutional contexts in shaping of the blogging as the journalistic genre or simply the tensions existing between the editorial control as well as subjectivity in the different types of the journalistic blogs (Hallett, 2008).
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