Blog | May 6, 2011 | 5 Comments

[blogging and the news]

[don't get them mixed up]

A few months ago, when the shutdown of the Internet in Egypt was still big news, I received an email update from a favorite blog. It contained a link to a blog post that reminded me about the difference between blogging about the news and news news (also known as journalism).

Semantics and sources

The blog post had this title: “Syria Lifting Five-Year Ban on Facebook.” It came from an excellent social media blog and the topic seemed important for social media advocates and enthusiasts. So I clicked on the link and went to the site. Because it was breaking news, I nearly clicked on the share links for Facebook and Twitter before I read the article (never a good idea). But the first sentence stopped me:

Syria is in the process of lifting the five-year ban on Facebook.

Then a quote from a Syrian magazine:

Syrian authorities will lift a five-year ban on Facebook as of today, Forward Syria can confirm.

Then another sentence:

While we cannot confirm or deny the reinstatement of Facebook in Syria, I’m sure it will be huge news once it happens.

That’s when it hit me that non-journalist bloggers who are not “on the scene” may write hints, suggestions, or predictions of news events (and lots of rehashes afterward), but they usually don’t report the news. Actually, I already knew this, but I guess I needed a reminder.

I was sucked in by the headline.

I don’t see anything ethically or even technically wrong with the article, and I don’t fault the bloggers. I fault myself. If I’d read the title more carefully–or critically–I would have realized that the verb “lifting” was carefully chosen so as not to imply that it had happened. The lesson here is nothing new: always examine your source.

Let’s support the real news, too.

I hope professional journalists and news outlets will thrive in the 21st century because we can’t get actual news from average bloggers and tweeters. They (and “they” are “us”) definitely help spread the news, but we need professionals to find it, verify it, and report it.

I’m curious: where do you get most of your news?

P.S. After I wrote this post, several interesting blogs appeared discussing journalism and social media. Here are a two of them:

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Author: Claire Wagner

I'm a seasoned freelance writer/editor and an enthusiastic community manager. I'm passionate about developing and sharing good content.

5 Comments

Hi Claire, Great question, I’m really interested to see how people get their news today. Before I share how I get my news, let me say I have a journalism degree, though I’ve been out of Journalism for more than 25 years, I still consider myself a news junky.

I actually read newspapers (SF Chronicle and local Tri-Valley Herald). I like knowing what’s happening in my area. Online, I check NPR every day and we subscribe to the New York Times. On television, I watch the local news and the BBC. I also subscribe to Newsweek for more in depth stories. I consider all these things “news news”.

For OPINION “news”, I read The Daily Beast and Huffington Post. I try to miss the talking heads on cable, but I can’t help it, I love the fake news (John Stewart and Steven Colbert’s shows). It keeps me sane!

[Reply]

Claire Wagner Reply:

Laura, we have a lot in common – maybe a bunch of us do. You should read Sam Cowan’s list on my Facebook page’s wall! I also get the Beast and HuffPo but you are so right to call them “OPINION news.” But in thinking some more, I have to say my favorite thing is the AP and CNN newsalerts (SMS) that I get on my iPhone. I am totally in touch with the biggest news of the world through these. And I get email alerts from the Merc for anything local or global. And now I realize that I rely less and less on NPR, which used to be my sole news source. Hmmmm….

[Reply]

Laura

5/6/2011

I’m so glad you’re blowing the whistle on this misleading practice! It’s stealing mojo from somebody else’s investment of time and talent.

Well done again Claire!!

[Reply]

What scares me is the loss of daily news primary sources. As our newspapers get smaller and smaller, and the journalists they used to send out internationally, nationally and locally, get fewer, we depend more and more on just a few organizations with “feet on the ground”. The perspectives we receive are fewer, the information less vetted, the risk of news-slanting greater. This is important enough in understanding world news, but perhaps even more important to our daily lives when we think about how we discover that our corporations are cheating us, our politicians are deceiving us or simply that that open space down the street that you like to visit is about to be turned into an office park.

[Reply]

Claire Wagner Reply:

Lisa, I was just thinking that our former Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper is now more like the Silicon Valley Herald. I don’t admire the writing or the placement or story choices any more. And it galls me that so much content comes from other sources instead of the once highly respected staff. But I have to subscribe for work reasons, so I can’t “vote with my feet.”

[Reply]

Lisa Hettler-Smith

5/7/2011

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