Does blogging represent a threat to traditional journalism? If so, what might some of the consequences be? If not, what does it add to the Fourth Estate?
There are few technologies that can actually boast of the proliferation of blogs and the accelerated rate of its adoption, or simply claim to have a very profound effect on interpersonal discourse (Lowrey, 2006). Blogs are webpages in which entries are arranged in reverse chronological order (Blood, 2002). This blogging phenomenon as has occurred in relation to the news or communication industry has opened up many fresh opportunities for new news suppliers and 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 theoretical aspects and factual evidence, the essay argues that blogging indeed represents a threat to traditional journalism.
Some qualified journalists in fact joined the community of bloggers, which has eroded the distinction between journalists and bloggers. 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). 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), which 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 a part of personal identity and integration or social interaction. The studies have explored the various contents of blogs, their motivations, their routines, as well as the perceived credibility among several other things. 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 information and topics in news-oriented blogs are reported to be similar to the ones in traditional news contents 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 covered news and shaming the various journalists into carrying out their jobs better (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. 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). Indeed, even the individuals who are seeking the journalists and 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 compared to traditional journalism in the contemporary society. 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 various sorts of content from the fan replicas of movie narratives to the consumer reviews (Matheson, 2003). Just as the way individuals do on paper or other media forms as well as in weblogs, the groups and individuals also publish various contents that actually represent literary forms other than journalism (Technorati, 2008). Nonetheless, based on an investigation carried out on the different types of journalism-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 either complementary or competing information regarding news as well as current affairs and then raising competition (Bennett & Entman, 2005). Wilson Lowrey (2006, p. 477) 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, old stories, 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 organizational constraints. Meanwhile, some have emphasized the speed with which weblogs have reported events and the depth and thoroughness with which a network of web bloggers has followed up a story (Matheson, 2003, p. 36).
The criterion of quality is that of being factual based up to the moment and which is consequently in-depth with anti-establishment, anti-corporate liberalism of such kind of commentaries on the Internet (Matheson, 2003). This has brought about a particular threat to 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 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 as those accessing blogs have been found to trust online news, television news viewers trust television news, and newspaper readers trust news in newspapers (Abdulla et al., 2005). 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 are 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 traditional journalism at one of its very weakest points which is its lack of personal contact with the readers (Matheson, 2003). Unlike traditional journalism, blogging is actually participatory. Firstly, stories reported through weblogs are in most cases published by the individuals who have been involved in various events that are being reported. This contradicts the widespread understanding that proper journalistic materials can only be produced by trained observers and not by participants (Matheson, 2003).
Weblogs are also participatory in the perspective that they have allowed and consequently invited the readers to converse among themselves on various issues that are being reported. Applied to 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).
Indeed, the weblogs are questioning the very ownership of traditional journalism on the actual level of the profession. Traditional journalism is reported to have been tied to specific organizational forms; 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 it is reported have been a very crucial part of the particular professional role of various journalists (Kunelius, 2001).
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, has benefitted from blogging (Giddens, 1991). 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 traditional forms of journalism. This in a way has posed a threat to traditional media where journalists’ investigative role may have been curtailed. 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 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 editors’ response often determines when news gets to the reader whereas the bloggers can upload his news piece as soon as possible. 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.
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 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).
An emerging view is that blogs may not offer pure news but could have an important role in assisting news consumers to organize and to interpret to make sense of the large volumes of news facilitated in the internet (Reiss, 2006). Such developments have underlined a sea of change in journalism as journalists no longer have the sovereignty over content creation (MacKinnon, 2005). Blogs have created a new public discourse around the news that has opened up the formation and framing news reports to a wider constituency that now has the power to change news (Coleman, 2005).
Finally, it is significant to specify 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. In some of the cases, 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 conversations regarding news issues (Wall, 2005). In this particular way, web blogs are internally impacting on the re-shaping of the online journalism, therefore offering examples of 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 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. Furthermore, it also explored the influence of the institutional contexts in shaping blogging as a journalistic genre or simply the tensions existing between the editorial control as well as subjectivity in the different types of journalistic blogs (Hallett, 2008).
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