(Editor’s note: This blog originally was posted November 15 on Jason Fall’s Social Media Explorer blog.)
Terry Boyd is a veteran journalist. The guy’s been shot at in Iraq, interviewed some of the most important people in the military and business and pounds out good, old fashioned reporting like it’s his job. Well, it kinda is.
So when Terry, who is now an entrepreneur and chief operating officer/editor of InsiderLouisville.com, decided to push back on a recent piece I wrote for his website, I paid attention. I’m also a trained journalist, but when smarter people talk, I listen.
Terry read my original submission about customer service in the social era. In it, I identified the car dealer in my example by name. Terry didn’t want to publish the piece without giving the dealer a chance to explain … in the piece. More social media inclined, my response was, “That’s what the comments are for.”
As we went back and forth on the issue, I suddenly realized a critical difference between blogging and journalism: Fairness.
A piece of journalism, even an editorial or opinion piece, written by a trained and ethical journalist, at least attempts to give opposing sides or viewpoints an opportunity to respond before the article or program is published. A blogger just publishes, one-sided or not, assuming that if anyone wants or needs to respond they can do so in the comments.
Is it fair that a blogger pushes the other side to the comments? I would argue yes, but there is some weight to the notion that a portion of the audience doesn’t read the comments. They aren’t published in a blog’s main RSS feed. For many people, that story is one-sided.
Meaning it’s not fair.
But this is looking at the effect, not the cause.
The true critical difference between blogging and journalism, or at least journalism as we understand it (institutionalized, done by professionals, etc.), is that traditional media is produced for consumption. Today’s media is produced for engagement.
(Upon further review, I wasn’t the first to think this. The Pew Internet and American Life Project pointed it out in a recent presentation on the changing digital landscape.)
So long as a blogger doesn’t limit the opposing viewpoint or dissenting opinion from being heard at all, fairness is offered.
At the end of the day, I asked Terry to remove the name of the dealer. Not because I didn’t want them to be identified or that it would have caused an issue with InsiderLouisville.com’s ability to sell advertising or be seen as a trusted source for news. I asked Terry to remove the name of the dealer because it took away from the overall point of the piece. Less was more. See for yourself and chime in if you like.
Regardless of whether or not bloggers offer fairness, we sit in the midst if a chaotic crossroads in media history. True journalism — trained, ethical, balanced — isn’t going away, even if the major networks are picking political sides of the aisle and it seems that way. As a people, culture, nation and world we need journalism.
Even if the definitions that make up that hallowed institution change.