Blogs: the new media order

A cheer went up on the internet recently when journalist Sheri Fink won the Pulitzer Prize for investigative journalism – for an article she published online at ProPublica.com. It was an accolade appreciated by those who publish online, a forum long seen as less legitimate than print media. So will this recognition of the legitimacy of online journalism by the world’s most respected writing prize have a trickle-down effect to that other form of online reporting? Yes, I’m talking about blogs.

Blogs have come a long way since the early zeros, evolving from personal, chatty ‘web logs’ into a growing force in today’s media. Blogs have become respectable, even powerful.

The internet has revolutionised the way we share news and spread information. There is an element of citizen journalism to blogging, and anyone with a net connection can take on the role of reporting information that might otherwise remain unpublished. But blogging has not yet managed to gain respect as a form of writing, often dismissed as amateur and unprofessional, and as such, less reliable than mainstream media or even online journalism.

There is some weight to those claims. Blogging as a medium is still in its infancy, and is still finding its way in regards to best practice. In many cases, blogs focus on opinion more than reportage. And while journalists are expected to adhere to a code of ethics, online rules of conduct are still emerging.

However, in some ways blogging can be a more reliable source of news. Their independence is where their power lies – blogs do not bow to the same pressures and constraints of mainstream print journalism. For example, a Sunday broadsheet may decide not to print a bad restaurant review, but bloggers have no such constraints and a quick search on the internet will quickly reveal the true nature of an eatery.

While many newspapers are attempting to keep up with online trends, simply reproducing print articles online shows little understanding of the medium. More innovative online journalism is coming out of internet-based Australian news sites such as Crikey and New Matilda, who are pushing boundaries in the way they report the news online in a timely, smart and interactive manner. Blogging has similar strengths – and there is arguably little difference between the writing coming out of those online journals and top blogs such as Anthony Lowenstein and group blog Larvatus Prodeo.

It is worth pointing out that the enormous Huffington Post blog is also one of the world’s most powerful media outlets. Locally, our own media conglomerates have attempted to recreate its success with home-grown versions such as News Limited’s The Punch and ABC’s The Drum. If our mainstream media is starting to blog, it is a fair indication that the medium is a meaningful one.

This article first appeared in The Big Issue #349.