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Bloggers get in ahead of the mainstream, thanks to ‘Instant Journalism’

Bloggers get in ahead of the mainstream, thanks to ‘Instant Journalism’

I read a couple of interesting articles today, both written before the CES started.

The first was from the “Tomorrow’s World” blog written by the BBC’s Darren Waters. Starting with a provocative question, “Hands up anyone who thinks blogging is a waste of time?”, he then went on to lament that four top technology blogs ”plus Robert Scoble, naturally” were invited to meet with Bill Gates pre-keynote, whilst no-one from the mainstream media (well, the BBC at least) was ‘granted an audience’.

He then bit with the rhetorical “Are they all trained journalists? I don’t know” and vague “Does it matter? Possibly.”

Despite his apparent upset that neither he nor his colleagues were allowed to meet the great man, he did write,

“It’s an indication of how influential bloggers are in the technology market. Microsoft is not stupid – it knows that these bloggers speak directly to a large community and are admired for their honesty, cynicism and knowledge of subject matter.”

What interested me most (apart from the great retort from one: “BBC journalists, are they all trained bloggers? I don’t know. Does it matter? Possibly”) was this comment:

“Microsoft invites cowering supplicants (and a former Microsoft marketing guy) to the Court of King Bill. And guess what? They’re simply thrilled to be there! Blogging ended up reinforcing the corporate domination of the media. The PR guys wind up their clockwork blogger PRs, and send them to cover a show – then revel in the positive coverage.”

Now I may have misinterpreted this, but I wasn’t aware that the bloggers who met Gates were being manipulated by PR firms or were somehow under the thumb of ‘King Bill’.

Anyway, he did provide a great link to a blog article written by Nicholas Carr: “The new new journalism”. In this rather more biting article, Carr attacks a recent article by Andy Abramson of VoIP Watch.

Here he picks apart “Instant Jouralism” – a phrase picked up by taking a misspelling (probably typo) in Abramson’s piece – cynically writing:

“Instant Jouralists” cannot be concerned with punctuation and grammar and spelling. That stuff just “slows you down.” To be an “Instant Jouralist,” you have to write as if you were being pursued by a cheetah across the Serengeti. Don’t stop to think. Just let it rip. And who needs that “n” in journalism anyway? I knew precisely what Abramson meant, and by dispensing with the unneeded letter, he was able to be just that much more instantaneous.

What Carr seems more than happy to do is to take an article – even one that served its purpose – and pick it apart as an example of why blogging and instantaneousness are generally bad things because of a lack of decent grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

It’s an interesting article because I want to agree with much of what Carr writes, but not with the way he dissects something or his reasoning.

I’m no perfectionist when it comes to grammar and spelling, but I do make at least some effort to ensure that what I write communicates effectively the points I wish to make. I think most people who write – in any capacity – would aspire to that. Whilst abiding by established rules of language certainly help, I don’t think they are the ultimate measure of successful writing, and many mainstream / traditional journalists are just as guilty as bloggers for poor writing.

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Webomatica sums it up in a comment to Carr’s article:

…I’m willing to forgive a lot of grammar and punctuation mistakes – as long as the facts are straight. In regards to “instant journalism” my bigger worry above grammar is that wrong information is spread either by mistake, or intentionally. It takes time to double check stuff. I still think credibility and reputation relies more on accuracy than being first with a story.”

I believe that this is the issue that tarnishes blogs (or the stereotyped perception of blogs) more than the language issue that Carr brings up. The immediacy of blogs, coupled with some subject niches (particularly technology) being incredibly competitive and encouraging a ‘we reported it first’ mentality, all taken with a dose of blog plagiarism information sharing, doesn’t always sit comfortably with fact-checking, reliable sources, and corroboration.

As bloggers, if we’re honest, we’ve all published a few articles just that little bit too soon in an effort to ‘get the news out’ when a little longer would’ve produced a better story. This is something those in more traditional media probably take for granted, though in an age of 24-hour news coverage, most forms of media are feeling this speeding up effect.

Increasingly often, bloggers are ‘getting there first’, as companies and significant individuals realise the reach and influence that they wield. That brings a certain level of responsibility. Effective use of language aids good communication, whilst at least a little more self-editorial control produces a more appealing and accurate story.

And yes, I’m looking in the mirror…

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