A year ago, I ran across Micro Persuasions’ Steve Rubel report on “CNET Requires That Journalists Respond to Blog Comments”, an interesting twist on the media conversation.
CNET is mandating that its blogging journalists respond to all reader comments and questions, according to a report in The Guardian. Further, they are also expected to get involved in every debate that “has legs.”
This model is incredibly noble and indicative of where journalism needs to evolve. However, at the same time, it presents a conundrum for public relations professionals and the journalists as well.
I bookmarked the post in my list of things to write about and have been stewing over this all this time. Maybe it’s time I opened up the point to you so you can stew on this, too.
I have to agree with Steve’s perspective that this might be great in theory, but in reality, it’s going to be tough.
Just because a journalist reports information, that information may have been handed to them from a press release. It doesn’t mean they are an expert in the subject, or even know much about the issue.
Many times in the past I’ve had to write up press material and articles based upon subjects I not only didn’t know anything about but on subjects I didn’t want to know anything about. Just because I wrote about it, does it make me an expert? Should it? I was paid to publish the info from the press release, not get a degree on the subject.
Because I report on a specific topic of news about blogging or WordPress, does that make me an expert on the topic? Sure, I’m an expert on blogging and WordPress, but maybe not on the issue at hand.
I believe that we shouldn’t blog about things we now nothing about, but there are times when we blog about things related to what we are experts and know about, but we don’t know everything about the subject, let alone enough to really comment wisely upon it.
I guess it comes down to deciding if you are writing as an expert or just reporting the news.
Andy Merrett recently reported here on the Blog Herald about the First Saudi blogger, Fouad al-Farhan, arrested. Did he comment on the bigger picture? On the social responsibilities that bloggers blogging in countries where freedom of speech is a myth and crime live with? Did he fully research the story and report on other bloggers who’ve been arrested for similar crimes in other countries, and compared al-Farhan’s future with the results of their arrests and convictions?
No. Andy reports on the news for the Blog Herald. He’s wonderful at it. He finds all kinds of brilliant bits and pieces we need to know now about what’s going on in the blogging industry. If he adds a bit or two of personal commentary, that’s okay, but his job is reporting on the news, not to offer opinion and deeper insights.
Should Andy be required to comment on blog posts on the Blog Herald? Should I be required to comment on Andy’s posts? Do his posts need comments? They are news? What’s more to say other than “That’s terrible. Wonder what we can do to help?” or “Thanks for letting us know about this.” Sure, we can start postulating about the issue, but Andy is out getting more news to report on, not monitoring the dialog created by his news announcement.
Yes, it’s critical that we do what we can to help our fellow bloggers, especially those within the team we blog with, like here at the Blog Herald. We can easily break the ice and get the conversation going for each other. Or we can admit that not all posts need comments and get back to the work of producing powerful content for our readers.
On the other hand, should all journalists be required to represent the subject matter for which they write? Maybe. What if we were really held to a higher standard for what we publish. What if we could only publish on subjects we were experts in, prepared to comment and respond to questions? It might change journalism if all journalists were held fully accountable.
I heard on the radio recently that a new company is being formed to report on the news in a new way. I can’t find details about it on the web yet, but the project will assign the time the reporter needs to get the story done. Reporters and journalists will not be working under 10 minute or 48 hour deadlines. There will be no urging to “get the story on the air FIRST” to win the prize. The assignments will be indepth and cover weeks, months, and possibly longer, to tell the whole story, not just reporting on the bits and pieces. It’s an expensive undertaking, but this method will definitely turn the journalists into experts as they research and prepare the story over extended periods of time.
These journalists will have something to contribute to the conversations, don’t you think?
What do you think? Should bloggers working on multiple blogger blogs be required to comment on every blog post published on the blog? And what about journalists? Should they be required to comment?
And what does your comments look like when you are forced to comment on subjects you know little about, nor want to know much about? Doesn’t this change how you comment?
Author: Lorelle VanFossen
The author of Lorelle on WordPress and the fast-selling book, Blogging Tips: What Bloggers Won’t Tell You About Blogging, as well as several other blogs, Lorelle VanFossen has been blogging for over 15 years, covering blogging, WordPress, travel, nature and travel photography, web design, web theory and development extensively as web technologies developed.