Journalist-Only Club, No Bloggers Allowed

Comments 20 by Rebecca Bollwitt

For the record, I am not sitting in a basement while I type this.

My friend Michelle invited me to be a guest lecturer for her “Intro to Journalism” course at SFU this week. She is accomplished in print and radio (all over the world) and her other guest that night was a science journalist. Kudos to her for inviting me, a representative of a form of online journalism we call blogging, to speak in front of her class, even though I was super nervous.

When I was done my presentation, which included mentioning a ton of sites (from those that blog about kitties to NowPublic), she asked me if I knew of a blogger who has entered into mainstream media as a journalist. I was at a loss, and if someone out there can drop a name in the comments that would be great, but I could only think of the opposite; mainstreamers who got into blogging to supplement or as a part of their day jobs.

Mainstream media journalists are allowed to blog and it’s perfectly acceptable, whether or not they’re doing a good job can be argued, but it’s now becoming the norm. However, I find the general attitude towards the concept of a ‘blogger-turned-journalist’ is laughable. Why is that?

Does a paycheck = credibility and accountability? Just because we’re not “working media” doesn’t mean our opinions and views matter any less. Sure, we’re not officially hired to represent and inform the masses but aren’t we doing that anyway?

luv hayte msm

JJ and Alanah were discussing the article below before our podcast tonight. They found it pretty hilarious, being very familiar with sports writing as a genre, and I’m super glad they shared this with me:

Bloggers and personal, non-journalistic Web sites are starting to tick me off. Look, I appreciate and respect that in America, everybody has an opinion, especially on sports. And I respect everybody’s right to share their thoughts with anybody who happens to own a computer via blogs.

But people, let’s not confuse what random fans and wanna-be pundits are tossing out there with legitimate reporting. The line is getting way too blurry now between Internet noise and actual journalism. It’s actually getting to the point now where some (too many) of the bloggers are using cyberspace to discredit the legitimate media.

Now I am not saying all legitimate media or every reporter is 100 percent credible. Nor am I saying every blogger is out to discredit legitimate media. But the distinction between the two must be clearer.

Journalism employs trained professionals. We actually have to go to school for this stuff. We take our jobs seriously. There are rules and standards that we are beholden to. There are ethics involved. We actually talk to, in person, the people we write about. [Chris McCosky – The Detroit News]

I respect mainstream media (msm), I have several friends of amazing integrity who work around this city and the world and do an outstanding job, but I also love blogging. Sure, there are those bloggers that do not adhere to any rules of conduct or ethical codes by ripping off posts, ideas and stories. However most bloggers actually do have guidelines and morals that they’ve personally established for their sites at least, there are even movements all over the web to integrate a legal “blogging code of conduct” [1][2][3][4][5], which includes commenting. The pure beauty of this medium is that it IS your voice and your opinion, something written and published by you, for the world.

With blogging and Web sites, it seems the hard work, standards, accountability, courage all of that is bypassed.

Who needs to study this stuff, or attend games, or conduct interviews when you can just sit in your basement and clack out whatever comes through your head, right? If I rip somebody, or if I get something wrong, who cares? Nobody will see me.

A lot of times these bloggers use the work of legitimate reporters. They will lift facts and segments of stories and cut and paste them onto their blog. Rarely, if ever, though, do they bother to credit the source. [Chris McCosky – The Detroit News]

I must admit, the non-crediting of sources and ideas pisses me off to no end, it’s one of my biggest “net peeves”. And aggregators that scoop the entire content of your post and do not say a) who wrote the post b) supply a link back to the original article are just plain illegal in my opinion – but that’s a blog post for another time as I could literally go on for hours about at least two particular “Vancouver” sites of this nature.

Personally, I always love to credit sources. It allows you to differentiate reported facts from your own thoughts and it also allows for link love and trackbacks, and we all know people usually love to be quoted or blogged about. As for mainstream media, I think it’s pretty obvious I wasn’t on the scene of that shooting on Granville and 70th so whatever comments I have on gang violence in Vancouver are obviously rooted in msm, but circulated to the masses with my own voice.

Also you can’t tell me that msm isn’t getting some of THEIR information from blogs. I know for a fact that a certain television station in Vancouver scooped up at least two stories directly from some of my blog posts here and there. Sure, they’re free to build upon them as they like but do you think when the story aired that there was a banner at the bottom of the screen that said, “as first seen on”?

This doesn’t apply of course to stories focused specifically on blogs or blogging as I was wholeheartedly pleased that the CBC looked me up as a “donut expert” based on a blog post I once wrote.

What it boils down to is that it seems like just when I think that maybe bloggers are the ones being elitist with a firm belief that traditional radio and newspapers are a dying medium – that we are the wave of the future – an article like this pops up and knocks us back down to earth. Maybe the joke is on us.

Regardless, stories like this remind me of the power I actually have as a blogger – a non-official, non-paid, non-journalist (although being paid for this would really help with the bills). Everything I’ve created at this site over the last four years has merit in some form or another, through my eyes. I’m very proud of it all – and that’s no joke.

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20 Comments  —  Comments Are Closed

  1. LoxyWednesday, November 7th, 2007 — 11:57pm PST

    One of the oilogosphere guys had a good post about this the other day:

  2. TravisWednesday, November 7th, 2007 — 11:57pm PST

    I think it’s laughable for a newspaper journalist to talk about blogs quoting stories without attribution, when there are many examples of newspapers getting stories from blogs without attribution. Glass houses, etc. etc.

  3. teflonjediThursday, November 8th, 2007 — 2:50am PST

    I’m always careful to indicate quotes’ sources when I cite articles. Of course, I don’t feel my blog is reporting, and just offering my own opinions (except when it comes to the occasional science writing I do), but I just think it’s good practice and, frankly, polite. I don’t see how blogging is different in form from the roots of the current newspaper business, years ago, and the history of newspapers is littered with political leanings and bent colouring the articles of the authors. Glass houses indeed…

  4. Gary KellyThursday, November 8th, 2007 — 3:10am PST

    You asked about a blogger who has entered into mainstream media as a journalist.

    Not sure if this fits the bill.

    There is a former journalist here in Newfoundland and Labrador who started a personal blog. Recently he started blogging for the The Evening Telegram in St. John’s.

    His name is Geoff Meeker.

  5. TodThursday, November 8th, 2007 — 4:20am PST

    Sometimes it’s difficult for people to make the jump, especially when they read newspapers upside down! 😉

  6. Tyler IngramThursday, November 8th, 2007 — 6:02am PST

    Whenever I mention something from the news I always link to the original article.

    As for the jab about bloggers sitting in basements.. I know bloggers who sit out on restaurant patios, or sit out on a lounge chair in the south Caribbean over looking crystal-clear blue water. As for me I’m in my own place surrounded by comfort! lol

    But then I also don’t blog as much as others since I still haven’t really found my ‘niche’ yet either 😉

  7. fotoeinsThursday, November 8th, 2007 — 6:02am PST

    I believe there is a place for trained journalists and well-meaning bloggers. With respect to the latter, there is, for example, Global Voices Online, which can provide useful and hard-to-find perspectives from all corners of the world.

    I do not believe, however, there is sufficient critical thinking or evaluation of what is being read online, nor is there sufficient praise for all who do their work correctly.

  8. Miss604Thursday, November 8th, 2007 — 7:28am PST

    Tod: it was also from last spring as the sports headline on the back was about the Canucks playoff game vs Dallas 😛

    Tyler: I *wish* I was in the Caribbean somewhere!

  9. Tyler IngramThursday, November 8th, 2007 — 8:36am PST

    Rebecca: I’m heading that way in the next month or two. Perhaps we should set up a Bloggers Convention! lol

  10. MegThursday, November 8th, 2007 — 9:15am PST

    If I quote someone or discuss a story, I always link. It just makes sense. I don’t do much “news” blogging or Vancouver-specific content, but it’s especially important to me to add sources when I publish that kind of stuff, specifically.

    What drives me nuts are the “what’s on the web!” sections in some newspapers and magazines that link to the most painful crap on the Internet.

    They’re trying to look cutting edge in pulling content from blogs and websites, but the items they choose are of such dubious quality that they end up making themselves look good in comparison.

    I’d love to get my hands on a role like that. I’LL show you what’s good out there!

    And I’d say Jessica Coen is a good example of a web-to-MSM crossover.

  11. RaulThursday, November 8th, 2007 — 9:50am PST

    Yay for a Bloggers Convention 🙂

    I am indeed writing from a basement (well, as they call them nowadays in the ever-booming, over-priced real estate market in Vancouver, ‘ground level suite’… the result of well, having to pay premium price for small places hehe. But that’s another story…

    I absolutely concur with you that many mainstream media outlets look down on bloggers. The debate blogging vs. mainstream media is similar to other debates where there is no definite answer. I can see the issue of training and codes of ethics. But I can also see how msm fails to portray the issues and creates a whole mess.

    I don’t know if you have heard about a study in the US by Professor Robert Putnam where some msm (particularly conservatives, anti-immigration types) portrayed his conclusions as saying that ethnic diversity leads to a decrease in social capital (Putnam’s paper can be interpreted in many ways, but I personally don’t think that’s what he is saying). Instances of erroneous portrayals of issues by msm are a dime a dozen.

    The msm does pick up on stories by bloggers. danah boyd wrote a half-baked blog post on an apparent racial divide between MySpace and Facebook users and the BBC reported it as “a six month scientific study”. It was a blog post!!! That’s a problem when msm gets their stories out of blogs.

    You are someone whose code of ethics and conduct in the blogosphere I try to follow. I personally have learned a lot from you, and still consider myself a newbie Vancouver blogger. For example, when you mentioned photo credits, I ran and checked whether I had credited all my photos. When you e-mail me to talk to me about citing a post of mine, I always appreciate it. Same thing when you invite me as a guest blogger. I even invited a friend of mine (with full attribution) as a guest blogger on my own blog, following your lead!

    Long story made short, this is a great post, one that will definitely stir up a conversation. I think that all we can do, is try to write as ethically and passionately as we can. This week I had someone send me an anonymous nasty comment on a restaurant review I did, and I was like “oh wow, way to go Raul, you’ve managed to piss off a reader”. The comment writer, however, probably does not not know that I recorded the IP address 😀

    Anyhow, great post, as always 🙂

  12. StephanieThursday, November 8th, 2007 — 10:13am PST

    Hey Rebecca,

    Great post/topic. I was inspired to become a blogger after coming across two very different blogs – 1. Darren Barefoot’s site; and 2. Fake Handbags v3.0.. My main interests are music and visual arts. Back in 2006, my friend John who works at The North Shore News, directed the NSN Managing Editor to my blog – that Managing Editor was interested in my writing and my many musings on Morrissey and The Smiths – he asked John if he thought I might be interested in writing Morrissey’s album review for the paper. I was surprised but took the challenge anyway. He told John, “I can’t pay her, but she can get published.” I gather that’s how most writers begin. Since my May 2006 article as a Contributing Writer, he’s always sent me the latest list of CDs up for review. I’ve been able to have my articles on Snow Patrol, The Beautiful South, Grant-Lee Philips, Sparklehorse, Mat Kearney and Matthew Good published. At the end of last year, they asked me to submit my Top Ten Albums of 2006. So in the end, though you may not get paid for your opinions, but in community papers, you can surely have a respectable voice. Personally I love writing music articles. It’s the only thing keeping me sane in a job that is completely void of creativity!


  13. ZanstormThursday, November 8th, 2007 — 11:47am PST

    I think you just have to be patient with it all. I think Bloggers have slowly gained credibilty and that is increasing. I really hate all of this “you need a degree in journalism” bullshit. It doesn’t fricking matter really.

    Speaking of copying and pasting, I can speak for most major hockey sites, that they copy and paste from the Associated Press without added opinions. That includes Sportsnet and TSN to name 2.

    I see more and more tv news shows referencing blogs all the time. I think that blogging isn’t going away anytime soon and that the power bloggers have will only keep increasing.

    A great post by you. You do very well on this site and should be proud of what you have accomplished. But hang in there. To me, it seems like your presence as a voice in Vancouver is growing isn’t it?

    Myself, on the other hand. I’m more the Don Cherry of blogging. I am politically incorrect and a badass who doesn’t pull punches. So I don’t know if that ruins the reputation of ‘decent’ bloggers or not, but I refuse to hold back.

  14. fotoeinsThursday, November 8th, 2007 — 1:13pm PST

    A question which I have not yet seen addressed (or perhaps I’m looking at the right places) is this: are bloggers going to talk about established facts and/or events, or are they going to express opinions? If both, how do they separate or mention they are expressing one or the other? It seems somewhat obvious, of course, but there are regular articles in various sections (News, Sports, Business, etc.), and there are editorial columns. Might this be a part of the root for some level of “distrust” towards bloggers?

  15. RaulThursday, November 8th, 2007 — 1:25pm PST

    I agree with Zanstorm, your presence as a voice in Vancouver is definitely increasing. But I am not sure that being a ‘badass who doesn’t pull punches’ is bad at all. I mean, look at Sean Orr… he definitely doesn’t pull punches and people (myself included) love his “Morning Brews”. If I were more into hockey, I probably would check Zanstorm’s blog more often 😀 … but I swear I’m becoming more and more adept to hockey! Thanks again, in no small part, to the Crazy Canucks podcast. 😀

  16. Duane StoreyThursday, November 8th, 2007 — 3:09pm PST

    So not entirely on topic, but I have had sort of the same experiences with photography. I’m not really a part of any credible (well, in the old school definition of that) media organization, but somehow last week got invited to go shoot some photos for the Vancouver Fashion Week. I told them I’d do a small write-up on Urban Vancouver, which seemed to be good enough for them.

    In addition to myself, there were also photographers there being paid for their time — I was doing it for free. Some of the models afterwards asked if they could look at some of their shots, so I gave them a link to my flickr site where most of them were. The next day, while browsing through facebook, I noticed that pretty much every model that I had talked to had taken multiple shots from my flickr site and put them on their site without any sort of attribution or credit at all. This is something I routinely am forced to deal with. It’s one thing if I was paid for the event, but I wasn’t. All of them corrected it after I pointed out that I was bothered by it, but we seem to live in an age where people feel they are entitled to anything they can surf to on the internet.

  17. Ryan CousineauThursday, November 8th, 2007 — 8:06pm PST

    Mickey Kaus of is arguably a case of this: he went from journo to blogger to…job as blogger with prestigious web magazine.

    Since Matt Drudge went from…nothing…to Drudge Report to radio talk show host, he’s a pretty good example.

    Most bloggers don’t become journalists (in the reporter sense) because “reporter” is the journalist job you get before you go on to better things. So there’s lots of bloggers who got paying writing gigs out of their blog-reputation (Glenn Reynolds, many, many more…).

    The trick is that for a lot of the most popular bloggers, their weblog is the place where they can make the most money.

  18. RaulFriday, November 9th, 2007 — 12:53am PST

    I’m not making any money off of mine 🙁

  19. Ryan CousineauFriday, November 9th, 2007 — 12:35pm PST

    Raul: that’s because you are not popular.

    Duane: well, that’s models for you, I guess. I think for most swipes of that type, naivety is more likely than malice. I had a similar issue with a photo I took being used on another site without attribution, but in that case it was more an oversight by a knows-better user than an abuse.

    Is there anything that can be done about it? Not a lot, except chase the offenders down one by one.

  20. john bollwitt blog » Where blogging fits in with traditional mediaSunday, December 2nd, 2007 — 8:27pm PST

    […] Rebecca wrote about a post a few weeks ago about an article by Chris McCosky of The Detroit News when he said, “Bloggers just aren’t journalists“. Bloggers and personal, non-journalistic Web sites are starting to tick me off. Look, I appreciate and respect that in America, everybody has an opinion, especially on sports. And I respect everybody’s right to share their thoughts with anybody who happens to own a computer via blogs. […]

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