September 29, 2003

Bee the Blog III

Sacramento Bee ombudsman Tony Marcano sums up the response he received in the wake of the paper's decision to edit political columnist Daniel Weintraub's blog, California Insider: "Blogs good. Newspapers bad. Ombudsman dumb."

I was critical of the way the Bee decided to edit Weintraub, but not of the editing itself.

As Marcano points out, editing is not censorship. Good editing is a partnership between editor and writer.

The better question, as Marcano asks it, is, "Are blogs by their nature incompatible with newspapers?"

Of course they are not. But newspaper editors need to realize, as Weintraub himself states in Marcano's column, that:

"... the online product is not simply an electronic version of the printed newspaper. It is an entirely different medium, more akin to radio and television than it is to print. Commentators on radio and TV are not edited. They say what they want, and if they overstep the bounds of decency or good taste, they face the consequences. … There is no reason that bloggers affiliated with newspapers could not follow a similar model, as long as the Web site informs readers of the distinction. A Weblog is not the same as a printed column. It is a collection of quick, off-the-cuff reactions to breaking events, with an attitude. Those reactions can change over time as more facts are known. Some of those opinions are over the top. The readers know that. It's the nature of the beast. It's what they like."

Journalism with the readers in mind. Now there's a revolution.

UPDATE: Scott Rosenberg from Salon says, "As an editor and a blogger, I find that the perspectives on this tend to fall into two camps talking past each other."

His advice to newspaper managers: Don't waste your "time trying to push blogs back into the old template of the newsroom. The world is richer for the existence of well-edited newspapers and unedited blogs. I want them both -- they complement each other nicely. And there's no reason we can't have both. What we don't need is the same old news product in new blog-shaped bottles."

 Sacramento Bee, Tony Marcano Flogging by blogging: Sorry, editing isn't censorship
 Scott Rosenberg Editors vs. bloggers

Posted by Tim Porter at September 29, 2003 09:41 AM

The problem with the "it's like live TV or radio" notion is that the printed word -- even on a computer monitor -- has a permanence the other media lack. The words do not disappear into the ether .. in fact they can stay online for years. And part of the problem of covering blogging issues is the only ones doing it are bloggers themselves (or people with a vested interest in them) ... we're all pretty much blind to the reality that the world's population can be divided between those who enjoy blogs and everybody else. And everybody else is roughly 90 percent of the population. Getting them on board will probably require more of the professionalism that attracts people to the printed word -- because readers have ingrained notions of quality and credibility that are (I suspect) thrown off by the inherent chaos of blogging.

Posted by: tom on September 29, 2003 06:26 PM

I was going to say something like what Tom said regarding the analogy to TV or radio. It's very difficult to fact-check a TV commentator, unless you a) recorded the statement; or b) got a transcript; or c) were sitting at your computer or paper when you heard it and were quick enough to write it down.

Posted by: bryan on September 30, 2003 05:41 AM
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