29 November, 2012

Journalism & Blogging

I’m going to tread carefully, as “What is a blog? What is journalism?” is the sort of path from which it’s easy to emerge hours later, all scratched up by thorns and directionally confused, and it’s past one o’clock and I haven’t crossed a thing off this damn to-do list … but, for practical purposes, think of Wired Science as a science section, something like an online analogue to a newspaper section, which contains a variety of writing, including journalism and blogging.

The latter tends to be found in the Wired Science Blogs section (which of course includes a number of very fine journalists, including Dave Dobbs and Maryn McKenna and Deborah Blum, and Brian Switek who started out strictly as a blogger) while journalism is usually found in the main page — i.e., it’s not specifically designated as a blog post. This isn’t an absolute  distinction, as some of what appears in our main section isn’t journalism, while sometimes journalism appears in the blogs. But it’s a good rule of thumb.

As for the difference between journalism and blogging (how I hate that word; it would’ve been so much easier for everyone if the ‘blogger’ role hadn’t been named after a content-publishing platform that anyone could use) it’s twofold: process and presentation.

A journalist, or at least someone performing journalism, makes phone calls/sends emails/meets people/generally gets outside his or her head. There are other traits characteristic of journalism, but the basic act of reporting — and its implicit awareness of the limits of our own knowledge, of the importance of considering multiple perspectives — is fundamental. If there’s anything I wish I could see more of in what’s usually called blogging, it’s reporting.

Secondly, and less importantly, journalism is usually a self-contained story written to be broadly accessible. This isn’t to say a story can’t be complicated or written for a particular audience, but it needs to be a story, not a few paragraphs or captioned pullquotes. Journalism can generate blogging: On WiSci, Dave and Maryn and Deborah all routinely spin off posts from their reporting. But the final product is something different.

I also think blogging and journalism serve sometimes-overlapping, sometimes-different, and ultimately complementary roles in the public sphere … but I really should do at least *some* work today :)