SO here I am sitting in my Monday morning class. This week’s session is about blogging. The students are setting up blogs and writing some words. Perhaps I should do the same.
What follows is a quick edit of my notes for today’s class. I have just told everyone that they can use their blog for their work. Or also use it to ramble on about whatever interests them. Advice from a blogging rambling. Or a rambling blogger.
This part of the session saw me raise a few thoughts about blogs. And here they are…
Blogs have been with us for a few years now and they have changed and challenged journalism. There are many types of blog, but for our purposes let’s divide them into two:
Blogs attached to professional media organisation;
All other blogs.
You could say that in the early days, blogs were written by bandits who ran wild rings round journalism. These free-roaming outriders could write what they like, they didn’t have to be trained, and no one was telling them what to do.
Since then, blogging has thrived in its own right – and has also been absorbed into mainstream news organisations. This is often the way: something starts as an outsider and then becomes part of the establishment.
What we shall call the establishment blogs are those written by journalists working for the BBC, the Guardian, the Telegraph or any other major supplier of news, features or entertainment. These blogs are an extension of journalism: they have moved from taking place outside of established media to be practised by professional journalists.
The difference with these blogs is down to delivery rather than content. A professional blog has similarities with a newspaper article, but it can be delivered more quickly and displayed on a newspaper or magazine website immediately. It will be written with a professional eye; written by someone who has learned how to write over many years.
The bandit blogs are still out there of course and there are many of them. A blog can be about anything. If can explore ideas or share moments from a life. It can recommend a lipstick or a recipe. And it can be a going commercial concern.
So, has digital technology been good or bad for journalism? The sensible answer to that is: it depends.
Digital technology has blown old journalism apart, with falling print sales and difficulties in making money online. The pieces are still settling but the printed page has a fight on its hands.
Yet alongside that disruption, there has a rise in what you might call democracy of the word.
If it is easier to be published, then more people get to have their say That is a good thing in many ways. It doesn’t guarantee quality, especially as many blogs are edited and published by the person writing them.
Here is a question: How have blogs changed journalism? They make everyone a reporter. Anyone can now write a news story or opinion piece and deliver it to the world.
This is both exciting and troubling:
Exciting because the speed of delivery means there is no more hanging around and waiting for the presses to roll;
Troubling because that same speed means facts may not be checked.
News organisations often use a blog as a way of conveying rolling news. The blog allows them to tell a story as it happens and can call on many sources, including rival newspapers or websites.
That’s the professional side. So how about the others? Well they are a mass of almost anything you might care to think of. And now you are about to join them.
To wrap up, here are the thoughts of someone who has been blogging for a while now, since June 2015. I called this blog Man On Ledge. This was because I had just been made redundant and that’s what it felt like: standing on a ledge, knees shaking, arms out and hoping not to tumble over.
I have now written hundreds of blogs. For a while I wrote one a day. Some of the early blogs were about the unhappy experience of being made redundant. Others were about life, politics and all that. And they still are. On days when time is being kind to me, I have a think while skimming the headlines. And then I give myself an hour to write 500 or 600 words. I read them over. Press the button. And another one is gone.
I used to write a column once a week for a newspaper. Now I can write one a day. That’s a liberation, but it is a separation, too, as there is something uplifting about words printed on paper. But that’s the old-fashioned side of me talking there.
At this point, I set a directed activity/homework. That is not necessary for anyone reading the blog. And if you do submit any homework, it won’t be marked as I have quite enough to do this week.