"Blogging, Journalism, and Credibility: Battleground and Common Ground," a conference held in late January at Harvard, featured a group of fifty journalists, bloggers, news executives, media scholars and librarians trying to make sense of the new media environment. The relationship between bloggers and journalists was a particular focus. Since the conference, the resignation of CNN’s Eason Jordan and the Jeff Gannon White House scandal have only underscored the power of weblogs as a new form of citizens’ media. We are entering an era in which professionals have lost their monopoly over information–not just the reporting of it, but also the framing of what’s important for the public to know. Have blogs chipped away at the credibility of mainstream media? How have they influenced the way news is being reported? Is credibility a zero-sum game–in which credibility gained by blogs is lost by mainstream media and vice versa? Conference participants put their minds to these questions, among many others. We’ve excerpted and abridged some of their thoughts below:
Associate professor of journalism at NYU, author of journalism blog Pressthink.org
[Elaborating on an essay, "Bloggers vs. Journalists Is Over":]
Even though it makes for good feature stories and blog posts, "bloggers vs. journalists" doesn’t help us understand where the world of journalism is going, where the Internet is taking it and what this new revolution sometimes called "citizens’ journalism" is about.
So bloggers vs. journalists is over. It doesn’t mean that they’re not going to fight anymore or that we won’t have arguments, or that it’s all peace and love or anything like that. In fact, the tension between the two will go on. It’s necessary and it’s inevitable. But we shouldn’t see these two camps as adversaries or enemies or opposites, because if we simply look at what happened with the tsunami story, and the way that independent citizen journalists were able to contribute to that, it’s obvious that blogs have some role in journalism. We just have to figure out what that is.
First of all, there has been and there is a power shift going on: from the producers of media to the people formerly known as the audience. That’s what I like to call them, because they’re not really an audience anymore. And terms like "audience" and "consumer" and "viewer" and "reader"–which have become threaded into journalism–aren’t really that accurate for the people on the other end of the process. So there has been a power shift from producers to users, mostly because of the Internet.
Secondly, this has led to a loss of sovereignty in the press. What I mean by that is simply a loss of exclusive control. Areas that once were under the domain of the journalist are now not exclusively under the domain of the journalist. You are not the boss anymore. What you say is not the law.
The third key idea is that because of this power shift, because of the loss of sovereignty, a lot of pressure is being put on mainstream journalism’s key ideas–the ideas and principles that make it what it is. There’s pressure on those things, and they haven’t been subject to critical examination for a long time. And that is one of the contexts in which blogging has erupted.
Objectivity as an ethical touchstone, as one of my sources said, is faltering in mainstream journalism. It doesn’t provide the kind of guidance and direction that it once did. And this is part of the intellectual crisis. Problems of finding a believable voice keep growing in mainstream journalism, and this is related to the shift in power.
Blogging is very well adapted to the world that I describe. It is well adapted to a world where the shift in power is taking place, to a world where there are many centers of sovereignty. Blogging is well adapted to two-way dialogue as opposed to one-to-many dialogue, which is also part of the media shift that we are living through. And of course blogging is not only well adapted but organic to the web and is itself one of the artifacts of the Internet.