Are blogs journalism?

A story on Arstechnica asks the question: “Are blogs more propaganda than press-worthy?”.

This strong relationship between blogs and the mainstream media shows that bloggers are more likely to perpetuate buzz rather than provide in-depth analysis about the story. While the dynamic, unmediated quality of blogging allows issues to be reported and discussed in a raw and immediate manner, there is more to journalism than instant reaction and response – a balance that both old and new media need to strike.

What articles such as this seem to miss, much to my dismay, is the distinction between the delivery medium and the content. They talk in aggregate terms about how blogs are “more likely” to perpetuate buzz, as though it’s the blog software perpetuating the buzz and not the person writing it. Blogs are not people, they are a radical new way to disseminate and discover content. As more and more subject-matter experts begin to publish their ideas and analysis online (and I would expect that Universities will jump on this bandwagon very soon, if they haven’t already), we will see that blogs provide space for deeper and broader analysis than is available in the soundbite-driven mainstream media. There is only so much room on the CNN.com front page, but there is virtually infinite space for contributions in the blogosphere. So, at a minimum, blogs provide all the capabilities of nytimes.com, but at a maximum they are infinitely more deep and broad in terms of their analysis.

As for the assertation that bloggers themselves are more likely to follow MSM topics than report the issues, I would direct one’s attention to the way the mainstream media has followed topics for as long as I can remember, which is that a small handful of publications (the New York Times, Fox News, CNN) set the agenda for the day, and most other publications around the world follow along like sheep. Sure, they may investigate the issues in a deep and professional manner, but their agenda is set by the leaders of the pack, and woebetide anyone who skews into new territory. I view this aggregate behaviour as just as great a shortcoming as the “buzz-following” amongst bloggers, and certainly far more entrenched.

And for a final note on the professionalism and depth of mainstream media, please check out an article on today’s Age website: “Worm decides: Corby Innocent“, in which one of Australia’s most respected papers reports on the results of a TV current affairs show’s viewer poll about the guilt of an Australian arrested for drug smuggling in Bali.