Career Magazine

Journalism: It’s More Than Just Having a Blog

Posted on the 26 February 2013 by Kzawadzki @kzawadzki
Journalism Notebook

Journalism Notebook (Photo credit: planeta)

With the proliferation of social media, blogs and, well, just life online, certain concepts and terms are blurred, sometimes mistakenly.

Like what it takes to be a journalist. What qualifies a person as a journalist. What journalism is.

It’s a trade. It’s a profession. It’s a career. (And if you’re truly passionate about it, it’s a life.)

Being a journalist is so much more than just having a blog of your own. I mean, I value my opinion highly, and I think I’m the shit, but this blog is just one of millions out there, and I function on WordPress primarily as a blogger.

I just happen to also have a degree in journalism, not to mention I’ve been working as one for the past two years. So I’m just a blogging journalist, but really, this place is just another commentary blog, where I can say what I think about what I see on the news, politics and in my daily life. It’s a blog. And I’m just another asshole fortunate enough to be able to afford a computer and Internet with an opinion of is own. So, really, even the term “blogging journalist” doesn’t fit – I’m just a journalist with a blog.

People get it twisted when it comes to the difference between blogging and journalism (and while there sometimes are gray areas and overlap, as with anything, there are differences).

You see, being a journalist involves a lot more than just running your mouth and spit out your opinions. There are processes to it, which require some skill. It’s not just writing. And no, not everyone can write (sorry to burst bubbles).

These processes include gathering background information, spot events coverage, planning, appointments and interviews – and all of that is before you even sit down and actually start writing the story, be it in print, broadcast or online format.

And then there’s the whole editing process, and I don’t mean just shoveling a hastily-written article or script off to your editor or producer and calling it a day. In addition to proofreading your own work before you file that first draft, journalism is putting in follow-up calls and emails to sources, or even scouring for further sources and more information, not to mention fact-checking everything you get even as you wait for your contacts to get back to you.

Did I mention there’s a lot of waiting in journalism? Sometimes it’s waiting for a source to call you back. Other times, it’s waiting for your editor to plow through your draft and having your phone next to you in case he or she has questions or needs clarification or, in worst-case scenarios, demands a complete overhaul of your work.

If you’re working with audio and video for a news broadcast or webcast, it doesn’t end there. You have to upload the audio/video into the system, and either your or someone else sits in that edit bay until the piece is finished and as perfect as it can be.

After everyone involved is through proofreading everything and the article or script, and all the audio and/or video is all packaged and ready to go, it falls on the editors and producers to decide story placement, which can be a whole another process. After all, there are questions of newsworthiness, including timeliness, proximity, prominence.

All the locally-produced work must be juggled with state, national and, if your news hole (i.e., the space or time you have left after factoring in ads which must go in) is just big enough, world news. And certain big stories off the wire services are left on the cutting room floor because there simply is not enough room.

Oh, and all of that has to be done with a hard deadline. Unless you get a very early start on a longer and timeless feature piece, there is no “I’ll make my calls tomorrow” or “I’ll file my story later.” In news, it all has to be in yesterday. So you not only have to be able to put sentences together well, record and edit audio/video well and be as accurate and objective as humanly possible, but you do it with a time limit.

Does your blog function that way? I know mine doesn’t. I’ve written entire rants that I wound up shelving because they just didn’t feel right or I just felt they weren’t needed or relevant anymore. I work differently on this stupid little blog of mine than I do when I’m on the editor’s desk at my job. Kamil the blogger is a bit different than Kamil the journalist.

But besides all these methods and the step-by-step outlined above, a journalist has to be responsible and ethical – and if there is a mistake that falls through the cracks, we do this little thing called a correction.

How many bloggers out there who call themselves journalists take care to make sure their posts are not simply grammatically correct, but factually sound? And, if wrong, how many of them actually admit to it – or even, at best, delete the erroneous content? That’s not to mention the fact that unless you work at a tabloid, rumors, “he said, she said” hearsay and conspiracy theories (and there are a lot of ‘em out there nowadays) have no place in a serious journalist’s repertoire.

But in the blogging world, with so many commentary blogs like this one, it’s almost all just a collection of everyone’s opinions on various things. And sometimes, it is all anecdotal, rumor-based and conspiracy-mongering.

I’m willing to say “that’s fine,” given that I have my own opinions, too.

But don’t delude yourself thinking you’re a serious news person when your blog is littered with wild conspiracy theories and accusations. Don’t lie to your readers and say you’re simply offering news that they won’t see anywhere else, as if you’ve got some secret source and you’re the only one with the scoop.

Trying to find and offer news that often falls below the radar of the top Google trends is a lofty goal, and I admire that. But that is not the same as spitting out bullshit and reblogging conspiracy theories. So, really, your blog is a glorified Editorial/Opinion page and you’re the only one writing or aggregating columns.

And, again, that’s okay. But own it and admit to it. Don’t pretend to be a serious news person, because you give journalists everywhere who do their best not inserting their own opinions into their work a very bad name. And you’re simply not being honest with anyone.

Being a blogger doesn’t make you a journalist. It doesn’t even necessarily make you a citizen journalist, though there can be some overlap sometimes.

If you want to more credibly call yourself a journalist, and your site a news journalist blog, how about in your next entry, you include some quotes from an interview you actually did. Not simply copied and pasted from somewhere else. You do the legwork to find credible sources that you will interview. That alone, even without hard deadlines and nitpicky editors, will get you a step closer to being able to call yourself a journalist.

Until then, at least I have the balls to admit that my blog is a collection of my own commentary and rants.

Because while I may be a journalist in practice, on this WordPress site, all I’m just another blogger. More specifically, I’m a journalist who just so happens to have a blog.

Feel free to browse the following links about this, and then consider: Who, and what, are you?

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