Friday, February 6, 2009

We have a right to write...

A few weeks ago Kelly, of Don Mills Diva, was featured in an article at the London Times On-line. She wasn't interviewed for the article. The authors actually "borrowed" her interview from a Canadian paper and directly from a few posts on her blog and tied them together to make it look as if they had interviewed her. It's an infuriating story, and one that Kelly tells much better than I would, so I'm going to ask you to click on the link and go read what she has to say.

The article was about the dangers of blogging, the loss of privacy, the online predators, and the potential psychological trauma we may cause our families and ourselves when we choose bare it all and seek attention on the web. Some of it is true but most is overblown hyperbole aimed at denigrating bloggers. Because many journalists have the misguided opinion that what they do is write and what we do is wrong. As Kelly pointed out, there are a whole lot of journalists out there who think that Bloggers are ruining journalism. So, she has asked other bloggers to join the Respect the Blog movement and write about what makes us and our blogs worthy of respect. I'm going to do that... but first I'm going to take a few paragraphs to address what is truly ruining journalism.

Newspapers have been losing readership for decades and they continue to point fingers at other media sources as the root of the problem. Radio, television, the Internet, and now blogging, have been blamed for the fact that newspapers are faltering. Heck, if you looked back far enough I bet you could find some ancient newspaper editor complaining that the town crier was impacting his business! Unfortunately, the cause isn't simply competition. Journalists need to take a hard look at themselves and their industry to find the real problem.

Newspapers are unique. When done right they are a cross between timely reporting and measured evaluation. They could have a virtual lock on local news and the ability to connect global events to neighborhood issues. Unfortunately, most local papers have been swallowed up by large conglomerates which eliminated local reporting and centralized national reporting. Newspapers, which used to reflect the personality of their communities, now all look alike. The consumer has very little reason to value their local paper. With this generic focus newspapers are just another version of the TV, radio, and Internet news.. all of them reporting the same stories. Of course newspaper readership has dropped off, the only thing they offer that you can't get anywhere else is ink stains on your cuffs.

Once upon a time you could find everything; unbiased news reporting, birth announcements, a review of the high school play, city council meetings, Mr. Jacob's travel adventures, recipes for the green tomatoes that wouldn't ripen because of the early freeze, plus editorials and letters to the editor that made world news feel more personal, in the paper that waited on your doorstep every morning. Much of the content that made these papers unique wasn't written by the staff of the paper. It was content contributed by the community. Was it all important? Probably not, but it was the kind of news that held communities together. My generation has never had a good source for that kind of specific local news but we haven't lost the desire to connect in a more personal manner with the news. In the last few decades there have been many forms of media that attempted to fill the void, community access TV and radio, newsletters, websites, and now blogs.

A blog is news on a very personal level. It is narrowly focused and interesting to a small group of people. Much of it is trivial and opinionated but it fills a need that we humans have to connect with others. Bloggers aren't competing with journalists. A journalist (also called a newspaperman) is a person who practices journalism, the gathering and dissemination of information about current events, trends, issues, and people while striving for viewpoint that is not biased. (Wikipedia) A blog is often the opposite of journalism. The people who write blogs are creating a community with their words and it is a mostly positive and supportive community. Those words have value and their creators deserve respect and recognition. They deserve the same respect granted to other writers; credit for their work, proper citation, and protection from plagiarism. It is a very simple concept, one that every high school student has beat into their heads whenever a paper is assigned. You don't steal other people's words or ideas. Whether that person is a journalist, a novelist, a memoirist, or a blogger.

I write for myself, to help organize and solidify my thoughts. I write for others, because what I learn, or don't learn, might be helpful to someone else. I write for my family so that they will know me better. I write because I love writing. I write a blog because it's the most convienent and efficient way to do all of these things at once. I don't feel an urge to defend my choice to blog. I am a writer and this blog is one of the things I write.

Respect the Writer!


Don Mills Diva said...

Thanks for your support Gina!

I'm linking you up now...

Cheri @ Blog This Mom! said...

Yay for you, Gina!


Mary Alice said...

That is not nice. Yes, respect the blog.

Mrs. G. said...

I imagine this is done much more than we think. Not good.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

Excellent take.

Queenly Things said...

Very, very well put.

nicrogers said...

Great job Gina!

Sara Moriarty-delaFuente said...

Well put and i couldn't agree with you more.

Respect the Blog! Darn it!

Renee said...

Gina this was so well written.

I know in my local newspaper that it always takes the same stance on any topic. We really only have one paper so when we read the news we always get the same opinion on world events. The family who owns the papers opinion.

I write so that when I die, my children can read my words and that will help them not to forget me.


Love Renee

Tiffany said...

Great post Gina. I agree. We bloggers can and should be able to express our opinions. News journalists should NOT.

OpEd pieces are the place for opinion in newspapers and TV reporting. But those who present them should not also be news journalists, at least not when reporting related topics. This is what annoys me most about the "mainstream" news.

I go to blogs for opinions from different parts of the country/world. I watch the news to see facts about what is happening.

If news organizations are doing what they are supposed to do, bloggers are no threat!


Karen MEG said...

Bra-vo Gina!! This was wonderfully written, and just bang on! Keep on writing.