Blogging – Breaking Rules of Journalism

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Ohg Rea Tone is all or nothing. He is educated and opinionated, more clever than smart, sarcastic and forthright. He writes intuitively - often disregarding rules of composition. Comment on his posts - he will likely respond with characteristic humor or genuine empathy. He is the real-deal.

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Blogging – Breaking Rules of Journalism

Son,

We are in a time in history of rapid change; and some folks don’t like it. They don’t like it because change often requires challenging, if not breaking, established rules and protocols. Bloggers are struggling to get the respect of the professional journalist community. I think that is a mistake. I am not interested in the respect of snooty, self-serving elitists.

Don’t misunderstand me. I respect the field of journalism. Professional standards of journalism developed out of the bitter wars of ‘yellow journalism’ about a hundred years ago. In a free and open society, with a free press, we the people needed some assurance that the limited information available was not tainted by capitalism or political objective. Rules of objectivity were formulated and canonized at professional schools of journalism. Everyone benefited.

We must all remember that journalism is the product of technology. Gutenberg invented the printing press and the world changed. We are merely experiencing another cog in the wheel of the marriage between technology and journalism.

The introduction of Radio did not disrupt the cycle too much – the radio journalists just read the newspaper on the air. (Orson Wells threw a wrench in the system with his 1930’s broadcast of War of The Worlds).

Along came television. Whooee, look at me! Non verbal communications had to be studied and objectified. Black and white television carried the banner for about ten years – then color TV introduced “How to Color-Coordinate 101′ into the journalistic lexicon. Walter Cronkite set the standard of professionalism and TV journalists became accepted professionals. The Nixon-Kennedy Presidential debates and then the Assassination of President Kennedy sealed the deal. Television journalism was off and running.

Enter Cable TV, and Cable News Networks. CNN limped along, making money for Ted Turner, but seen as something ‘less than’ by the established media. Network news folks, around for all of about thirty years, scoffed at the brazenness of CNN. Along came the first Gulf War, another major media event, and CNN was all over the map. Fox News and MSNBC jumped on the bandwagon. Twenty-four hours news channels are in their infancy and the rules of journalism have not yet caught up.

Satellite Radio has created a new world of journalism. The problem with Satellite Radio and Twenty-four hour Cable News television is in content. How do you fill up that much space? Even with a global market there is just not enough ‘interesting’ news. It seems people can only take so much starvation in Somalia, Aids in Ethiopia, and poverty in Bangladesh. So we have filled the airways with talk – Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Keith Oberman, Chris Mathews, Tucker Carlson – we even have shows where some of these folks get together to talk about themselves talking. Then they go back to their own shows and talk about how the other guy talks.

The real sadness of this evolution is the rise of the paparazzi and celebrity baiting and chasing. O.J. Simpson’s murder trial ushered in a new genre of wackyness. The Bronco Chase has become a metaphor for the new-age of journalism. This new-age drives down the information highway and no one knows where it is going or how the trip will turn out – but everyone is afraid of disaster.

Jon Steward and Steve Colbert make a fortune spoofing the chase-of-the-media.

Along comes the internet and blogging. On-line Journals, Web Logs — Blogs. I have only been in this world for about two months and I have read some of the new ‘rules.’ Actually – there are no rules, but there are plenty of suggestions. Blogging is the radio of the 1930’s, TV of the 1950’s, and Cable TV of the 1980’s. We get no respect because we have not earned it.

The Blogging community suggests that blogs limit their content to one or two topic areas, not too much mixed-media, and follow the standards of sidebar advertising – all that stuff. You and I have already broken the rules. We debate what to do.

Someone comes to our site to read about how to make chili and they find posts on Al Gore and the Kansas City Chiefs – how distasteful – mixing content like that. We rant about social injustice and capitalism while trying to figure out how to get more people to visit us. We mix media with print, videos, and audio podcasts – are we supposed to do that? Are we breaking some rules somewhere?

We should pay attention to the suggestions being offered. We might even make some suggestions. Perhaps we should be more clear about when we are presenting facts and when we are editorializing. We should be clear about our bias. We should give credit where credit is due with a bibliography.

But we want to be careful to continue being ourselves – to continue a dialogue that has meaning to us. This is truly a fireside chat between father and son. We really do talk about all of these things. If someone wants to sit with use – well, we have invited them.

The relevance of blogging is simple. The opinions of regular people matter and their voices should be heard. We do not need to have our Letter to the Editor filtered by someone who’s bias is not stated.

The revolution has begun. Bloggers are unwittingly revolting against the mainstream media. Rebelling at the filtering of information. Gutenberg started it. We are continuing the journey.

Dad

On Writing, Blogging, Journalism

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