August 22, 2003

Blogging and Editing: Reloaded

The other day I asked how - or if - editing fits into the editorial cycle for newspaper-based bloggers like Daniel Weintraub or Eric Zorn. The questions drew comments from other media bloggers.

Ed Cone, a newspaper and magazine writer, sees new standards evolving for those who, as he put it nicely, blog "under a corporate banner." He adds:

"As a columnist, I would expect to be expected to conform to some standards, if not every standard pertaining to a print writer, and I would write to those standards as often as I possibly could, not least so that when a time came that I felt it important to breach them I would be on firmer ground. I think I could do this without compromising my weblog."

Ed also believes, as I do, that editing is not a requirement of journalism, citing, for example, live broadcast reporting. He adds:

"And bloggers do edit themselves. Some are sloppy editors, some are very very good. The key is that the blogger makes the editorial decision. Newspaper blogs that get this - even while imposing some degree of brand discipline - will be the ones worth reading."

Others interpreted my comments in favor of constructive editing ("Editors - good editors - question facts, characterizations and language in a reporter's story or column as part of that verification process.") as an either/or statement: With editing it's journalism, without it's not. Wrong. Editing is one part of traditional journalism, as is reporting, commentary and photography. The characteristics of journalism are synergistic with the form of media. The telegraph compressed reporting, radio gave it voice, television add moving pictures, the Internet made it universal and blogs are adding personality and freedom.

As Jeff Jarvis says, "Journalism is first and foremost reporting: getting the facts, getting them right. Editors can help, of course. But without reporters, editors are nothing."

I didn't play well in Peoria. Bill Dennis, a writer there who publishes the Peoria Pundit, also labeled me a troglodytic edit-or-perish proponent. Here is part of my response to Bill:

"Does a journalist have to be edited to be a journalist -- whether it's online or in print? Of course not. But a good editor (and they are rare, as I'm sure you would agree, as are the best reporters) can make a good journalist better and sometimes save a sorry one's butt.

"As far back as here I've said blogging is form journalism. I write mostly about newspapers and their efforts to survive in a changed media environment. I believe participatory journalism, and its dynamic forms of interaction between producer and audience, offer the best current lesson to newspapers on ways to engage audience."

Defensive newspaper managers should not read Bill's self-described rant. He got poisoned by a newspaper somewhere and the venom still runs strong. Still, Bill is correct when he assails a "culture is too calcified to adapt" and his prediction that most newspapers "will begin j-blogging only when they begin to look foolish by not having one" will prove sadly true.

Once again a new communications technology is emerging and, once again, most newspapers are following instead of leading.

Posted by Tim Porter at August 22, 2003 08:22 AM

Railroads got clobbered for a lot of reasons, but one big one was that they mistakenly assumed they were in the railroad bidness.

Newspapers are getting clobbered for a variety of reasons, but one big one is that as a group, they mistakenly assume they're in the newspaper bidness.

Posted by: Lex on August 25, 2003 06:50 AM
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