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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Blogs vs. Newspapers

Print journalism is on the decline, and that's ok with me.

Don't get me wrong. My father was a reporter. (That's him on the left -- Ernie Crowley at work at the Middleboro Gazette in the middle 1950's.) I grew up thinking newspaper writing was pretty grand.

Now that I'm studying journalism I've come to realize its importance in enlarging our worlds and holding us all together.

But journalism is not synonymous with print journalism, and print journalism is turning out to be unsustainable. It's a very odd notion, isn't it, to gather "all the news that's fit to print" and distribute it daily to thousands of households on paper that will fill recycling bins and line birdcages the next day?

Which brings me to blogs.

Among journalists it's a hotly debated question (see the editorial in today's Hornet) whether blogs will replace newspapers. The argument against blogs is primarily that they are unreliable. Who knows who's writing them, how knowledgeable or trustworthy the writer may be?

But that betrays a basic misunderstanding of the blog.

Does anyone worry about how knowledgeable or trustworthy a printing press is? Or a roll of newsprint? A blog is a medium the way newsprint is a medium.

Is anyone seriously going to argue that Pravda, for example, was totally trustworthy just because it was printed on paper and its name means "truth" in Russian? What about The Enquirer? It's a newspaper. Does that make it a reliable source of news?

The reason people trust newspapers, to whatever extent they do, is that those newspapers have established a solid reputation. Readers sort out the wheat from the chaff when they read, and they can do that online as well as anywhere else. They can tell the difference between The New York Times and The National Enquirer.

Sure some blogs are tripe, but they're not all tripe. Readers with a taste for top sirloin will be able to find that online as well. Some pretty impressive writers have jumped on the blogwagon. If you need convincing, check out the bloggers at the Huffington Post.