Over the past few months, there has been much talk of unity between the two presidential candidates and their running mates. It’s been a long time since Republicans and Democrats have been as divided as they are today. Those who vote red and those who vote blue agree on fewer issues than they might have a decade ago. That’s why, according to the politicians who may soon run the country, we need to make an effort to move closer together if we want to accomplish anything; otherwise, we’ll never be able to collaborate and accomplish something.
The same goes for journalism, according to Steve Outing. Think of bloggers and news reporters as red states and blue states. Though they’re positioned in people’s minds at opposite ends of the journalistic spectrum, dependable news may vanish if they don’t band together. But unlike liberals and conservatives, bloggers and print journalists have already begun to adopt each other’s writing techniques and traditions to give readers what they want. However, according to Outing, each camp still has a lot to learn from the other.
Because I’ve freelanced and beat-reported at my school newspaper for two years, I consider myself first and foremost to be a print journalist. I take pride in the fact that I conduct background research on all my sources, ask people how to spell names and places and companies without relying on the Internet for the answer, and make the trip to the courthouse to take a look at the records myself rather than call someone up and ask them to tell me what they say. Therefore, it’s sometimes frustrating to see so many widely-read blogs that can post a link to one of my stories, offer a paragraph of unstructured opinion and garner 40-odd readers’ comments. What do these people have that I don’t?
Well, the answer is obvious: opinion. Newspapers know the edginess and partiality of blogs is what attracts readers to WordPress and Blogger en masse, yet they aren’t willing to give up the impartiality crucial to reliable reporting. In order to jump on the bandwagon, reporters have increasingly tried to incorporate opinion in their coverage by keeping a blog on their newspaper’s Web site–but these blogs still don’t attract as much attention as their unaffiliated brethren. Still, keeping blogs is helpful and, some might argue, crucial to a reporter’s job because it offers the audience a chance to chime in and gives a reporter feedback that helps him or her determine the public mood. Newspapers that don’t know what its audiences think or talk about aren’t good newspapers.
Bloggers, on the other hand, know exactly what their readers want. On the one hand, that’s positive news; on the other, it may adversely affect the blogger’s posted content so that it begins to reflect more on the audience’s tastes than on the blogger’s own. Such an outcome is dangerous both to the blogger and to the audience; while one loses his or her perspective, the other only reads what it wants to read and doesn’t get diverse coverage.
It’s easy to expound on the upsides and downsides of blogging and traditional journalism; it’s better to focus on what both entities are doing right. Both are making an effort to start dialogues with the general public. Both are honing their reporting skills. Both are changing rapidly, and both could become so much like the other that they become one entity.