05 April 2010

"Bloggers vs. Journalists," a.k.a. The Great Distraction

A colleague of mine forwarded an interesting piece from Tech Crunch with the headline "Study: 52 Percent Of Bloggers Consider Themselves Journalists." The study (link to the social media release) is a survey of "1,568 traditional and non-traditional media and, for the first time, 1,670 PR practitioners." The survey was sponsored by PR Newswire.

Set aside the fact that if companies and PR folks REALLY thought bloggers were journalists, they'd never send emails like this.

I think the survey is helpful, though I'm curious to see the actual questions asked, full results etc. For example, I'd like to know if any of the bloggers they surveyed were already full-time professional journalists who have started blogs. I'm not saying you should exclude journalists-who-blog, but I'd like to know if the survey sample was randomized.

I raise it because the online communities where I do the most work have very different stories. The editorial team at Global Voices Online? Sure, they're journalists. However, among online moms, I'd be shocked if more than 10 percent of them consider themselves journalists. Science bloggers generally self-identify as scientists. I think the green bloggers with whom I work generally consider themselves "journalists" of one stripe or another, though they don't seem to discuss the tools of the trade much - there isn't much talk about "on the record" versus "off the record" versus "on background," or about respecting embargoes, etc. There's also not much of an attempt to hide personal opinions or bias. As for political bloggers, some may say they are journalists but many professional journalists clearly disagree.

But here's the point: the "bloggers versus journalists" debate is nothing more than a distraction. It's a time-sucking discussion about nomenclature. It's the bizarre need to make sure round pegs fit in round holes and square pegs in square holes and make all the colors match.

More importantly, among PR professionals, I really think it's about laziness. PR pros are used to working with journalists, and want desperately to make this relatively new phenomenon of personal online publishing fit their pre-existing methods and rules. While it's appropriate and valuable to learn as much as we can about the media, We can't let this lull us into thinking that it's the bloggers who need to adapt to our methods and not vice versa.

1 comment:

Ann Marie van den Hurk, APR said...

I hear you on this one. I recently did a post of my own on it. Wouldn't mind hear your thoughts: http://www.ann-sense.com/2010/03/bloggers-pr-can-find-common-ground.html