07 November 2005

blogs and news

I noticed recently that the "news search" mechanism on Yahoo news now includes blogs among the news sources that it searches, recognizing thereby something of the complex relationship between blogs and more mainstream journalism.

This relationship is complex not only because various journalists have taken up blogging (Andrew Sullivan perhaps being the most well-known example), but also by the practice of serious news magazines to maintain blogs (for instance, The New Republic's blog, "The Plank"). Add to that the growing incidence of bloggers "scooping" news stories. In the words of one journalist:
Weblogs scoop you at every turn, breaking "your" stories before you have a chance to rush your article to press. And even if you do manage to break a story, weblogs take it over, dissecting every point you made and pushing your logic to every inevitable conclusion. Forget that follow-up you had planned - 'blogs have already anticipated and published every point you might have made.
One thinks here, naturally, of the significant role that blogging played in the last presidential election.

The relationship between blogging and journalism has been a matter of much discussion in the past few years, including a conference earlier this year on "Blogging, Journalism and Credibility: Battleground and Common Ground" sponsored by Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society and the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy. The conference itself was limited in the number of attendees, but was both blogged and encouraged participation via IRC and webcast.

This summer, as part of the Business Ethics course I taught, one student made a presentation on the law and blogging and the still open question of whether the courts will extend various kinds of journalistic protections and privileges to bloggers. An online resource she highlighted was the Electronic Frontier Foundation's legal guide for bloggers, which explores some of the issues that affect bloggers when they act in a journalistic capacity.

Whatever the case, the conversation about the role blogging in relation to journalism is bound to continue and evolve. And the relation of journalism to blogging is just one area of discussion since blogging, in its very nature, cuts across a wide range of communication-forms: conversation, scholarship, ethics, literature, graphic design, peer review, personal reflection, virtual community, and so on.

And, as with the invention of the codex, printing press, radio, and the like, Christians have often been at the forefront these developments in communications, making use of technology for the dissemination of the Gospel, connecting dispersed Christians together over geographic distance, carrying on theological conversation, raising support for missionary endeavors, and so on. While new communication technologies are fraught with new possibilities for abuse and raise a variety of ethical questions requiring careful reflection, history suggests that Christians will nonetheless enter the arena rapidly and pervasively and effectively.

Update: Coincidentally, I got a flyer in the mail today for a conference on "Blogging and Online Journalism" sponsored by Ohio University's Institute for Applied and Professional Ethics