Register Thursday | March 22 | 2018

This is Not Journalism

Blogging, that is.

There seems to be some confusion about these things, and in truth there should be very little. This just ain't journalism. Blogging (fucking hell, that word again) is not journalism. It's not even an "ism." Yet time again, both in the mainstream media and right here in this little living room, there seems to be comments that indicate people respond, at times, to blogs as though it were a reported piece instead of a faded Xerox copy of whatever happened to run through the writer's head at any given moment.

It seems a strange and unnecessary discussion to me. Blogging is no more journalism than poetry is fiction; than song lyrics are poetry. (Do you hear that Nobel panel? Song lyrics are not poetry. Bob Dylan's lyrics can be poetical and elevated, but by their nature, by the very fact that they were designed at the service of a tune, and not meant to stand outside the context of the strum and drum of music, they cannot be poetry. Sorry, I had to get that off my chest.)

Hell, blogging is not the same thing as an op-ed, though of any form of journalistic writing I would say this would come closest, but not even that should be taken too seriously.

Bloggers did not bring down Dan Rather; Dan Rather and his bungling producers did their own work in that regard. And bloggers are not the condescending scrappy little eager kids that many in the mainstream like to pretend they are. We bloggers (how many times can I use this wretched word in 1 post?) are more the tiny cleaner fish at the mouth of a large swimming mammal. The relationship is parasitic, mutually beneficial, and non-threatening to either side, though you wouldn't think that from the rugged stances and cast gazes both sides regard the other with.

Blogging is not a revolution, but it is a fucking megaphone that enables conversation between the gilded towers of the media elite and we, the tiny people. If blogging serves any function within the framework of journalism it is to remind the big boys, from time to time, when they neglect a story that either deserves attention or, for whatever reason, has caught the attention of a mass of people. We are a check of sorts, and only in specific instances.

No one will ever, despite the popular hemming and hawing to the contrary, replace the New York Times or Washington Post, or any other respected and objective news source, in the services they provide for the simple fact that those institutions have funding and resources no single blog, or even a unified voice of blogs, could ever provide. Reporting will never go out of fashion. Reporting will never be unnecessary. And reporting can only be provided by organizations that have the means, the will power, and the resources to provide it. As the commercial says, "I like the way the New York Times surrounds a story."

Which is not to say that these powerhouses are infallible, or even cool (whatever that is, and whatever that's worth), because they certainly are not. Blogs can be occasional reminders of that, but never through a single site, and only through an amplitude of voices. It's a checks and balances thing, on a microscopic level.

But a blog is an opinion, nothing more and nothing less. It's a window into a given personality and set of interests. Occasionally I will write something here that looks like journalism, I guess, that may look like I am attempting to cover a story in some manner. That should never be accepted. Really, I'm spewing something that stuck in the back of my head; that won't shake free. I'm taking a toothpick and gnawing around the gum line in my brain to pry it loose. I do my best to not speak off the cuff or without my opinion carrying some semblance of a point or some reasonable basis in logic and reason. But in the end it is really just my opinion.

But inevitably someone will step in, will be driven to post a comment. Something along the lines of, "hey dillhole, why don't you do a little research before you speak your stupid opinion."

This always cracks me up. Some research. Well I guess my research amounts to my awareness of a story and then whether or not it illicits some response from me. Do I know a little something about the story? Yes, yes, I've read a few things about it. Do I have an opinion or objective belief on one side or the other or even the other? Sure, yes, I have a few thoughts. Are those thoughts settling to the bottom and resting amongst the sledge? No, they're not. They seem to be sticking around. Do I believe in the validity of my opinion? For now, hell yeah I do, but I, of course, reserve the right to change it at a moments notice given the addition of newer facts which may either prove me wrong or complicate the matter further.

And that's really what I think a blog is, or at least can and should be when done right. A conversation. I open to floor and people respond. I will frequently go back and amend or expand on things I have thought or said when a comment arises that makes and interesting point, explores an angle I hadn't previously thought of, or introduces a theory or fact I was not aware of. I have rarely been moved to change a stance on an issue, but I have, occasional, admitted that I may have been hasty. And that is both a strength and a weakness of the internet and what it allows. I have a thought. It takes hold and germinates. I write about it and post it and share it. It can have an effect on others who read it, positive or negative (and I really am not too concerned as to which response is brought forth, as long as there is a response), and in the best cases a conversation begins. People with reactions and opinions I never would have been privy to through the barrier of geography or locality or even some form of intellectual snobbery on my part can chime in and join the fray. I think on only a few occasions have I been so unmoved by a response as to disregard it, and that's generally only when the person attacks me for having the opinion. If they engage what I've written on the level of the idea, I'm all in.

My editor reminded me of this the other day. I'm summarizing, only because I'm not entirely sure he wants his words posted. But he said one of the advantages, if not the greatest advantage, of the blogosphere (fuck me, I really had this term) is that it facilitates dialogue. The Internet levels the playing field, giving the author and the reader space to express their opinion. Opinion is valuable when it's constructive, and if it pushes the dialogue further.

But this is not journalism, and I don't think it should ever be confused as such. It's just a blog, which is not to demean it, but to simply acknowledge that, in the end, the only thing I ever put in this space provided by Maisonneuve are my thoughts and opinions. And, as the internet virtually proves, you know what they say about opinions.