Saturday, February 18, 2006
BLOGS: Sports Illustrated blogger compares with traditional journalism
IF YOU GO TO THE ORIGINAL URL ON THIS
THERE IS A GROWING LIST OF RESPONSES -- WE'LL DISCUSS SOME
OF HIS IDEAS IN CLASS WHEN WE GET A CHANCE -- BILL
Your Blog Is Showing
by Jon Weisman
So there's all kinds of talk this week about the establishment starting to blog, from Peter Gammons and Jayson Stark on ESPN to the new Inside the Dodgers house blog, hosted by team public relations guru Josh Rawitch, historian Mark Langill and vice president of scouting and player development Roy Smith. And meanwhile, bloggers like myself and Alex Belth have been writing for the establishment. What gives?
It was inside of two years ago that I was still embarrassed by the word "blog," and now it's as if Oprah has made it her Word of the Month. Perhaps the newest mainstream media blogs are a sign of the inevitable jumping of the shark - but it's possible we're witnessing a truly transformative moment in journalism. We're at the point where we no longer need to define the word "blogging" for the uninitiated - although it's clear to me that not everyone agrees on what it means - as much as we need to come up with a good word that stands for mainstream writing. "Non-blogging?" "Columnizing?" "Burnishing your cat?"
Despite the crossover, there's definitely a difference between the two. When I write for SI.com, I try to stay fun, but my style does become a bit more formal. This comes partly out of consciousness of a wider audience that doesn't know me as well as some of you; it comes partly from just the glare of being on a larger stage. SI.com didn't hire me as a blogger, they hired me as an occasional columnist. I'm talking to you - at you - not initating a two-way conversation. There is no comments section for you to respond and no chance for me to write short follow-ups to the orignal piece (though I create those options back here on Dodger Thoughts). As exciting as the SI.com job is for my present and future, it feels a little like a step back into the past.
Something tells me that there are a couple of unsolved mysteries about the future integration of blogging and mainstream media. One is whether instant feedback - instrinsic to many blogs - will be manageable at the most widely read places. Another is whether there will be a full triumph of informality - the same way that men no longer wear fedoras to the ballpark and women don't mind a thong or bra strap peaking out from their clothes.
The challenge is for that informality to serve a purpose, to not be a crutch for mere irresponsibility. What's important for writers is whether they give you something of value that you are encouraged and enabled to comprehend and contemplate, not necessarily how they deliver it. Blogging has been a pathway toward that goal for me, and it looks like it will be for others - even 40-year journalism veterans. As long as there are newspapers, where blogging is impossible, non-blogging will remain. But blogging, rather stunningly, has proven its mettle as a writing style.
I'm left wondering this: For those of us writing online, for SI.com or ESPN.com or NYT.com or whatever, should we be blogging or non-blogging? If you grant that we are capable of applying the rigorous standards of non-blogging to blogging - interview the appropriate people, research, fact-check, engage, entertain, think - what do we gain by not doing so? All things being equal, is one approach superior? Maybe we just need to blur the lines even further, eliminate the distinction between blogs and non-blogs, and just write in the style that feels right for each given article.
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