The power of the press and the freedom of the press have been synonyms in the media since these rights were granted and repeatedly tested. In today’s society, the two aren’t always paired up anymore. Blogs have redefined what we know as journalism. Everyday people are taking it upon themselves to report what they see and what they hear by venturing into places where traditional journalists can’t go and tackling issues they just don’t relate to.
Steve Outing, a self-claimed online-media pioneer, tackles some of the issues concerning the dangers and also advantages bloggers face while taking a stab at journalism in a two 2004 articles (Dec 20 and Dec 22) posted on Poynter Online. Outing said bloggers tend to be more personal, revealing their opinions and perspectives on issues, unlike traditional journalists who would never open up like this. He said most people are intuitive when it comes to issues like political opinions, and by not acknowledging the obvious, mainstream journalists are unable to better connect with their readers.
This idea of openness with reporters can be beneficial, but also a slippery slope where personal bias lead to censorship and perhaps political control over the media. This is another issue Outing discusses: ethics. While mainstream news organizations are watchdogs with plenty of watchdogs on their own backs, bloggers aren’t. The endearing personal perspective of a blogger isn’t so much the case when he or she is being paid by companies to write about certain clients or take sides on issues.
Blogging standards is an important issue that with hope will be addressed further in the future, but for now, what are the repercussions when bloggers, acting as journalists, abuse the trust readers have for them? Blogs don’t have editors, usually, and if a household could adopt a copy editor for a day I would already own one. How many journalism schools require media law courses? University of Oregon doesn’t (but does offer one, which I have taken), and student journalists are sent into the world not knowing what liabilities they might face for slander, false light, etc. These journalists have editors and corporations watching their backs, and their own pocket books of course, but lone bloggers don’t. Outing said he expects to see such a case appear in the courts in the future, and I do as well.
For now, bloggers will continue to piggy-back, critique and also outdo traditional journalists. As the printing press contributed to spreading ideologies, nationalism and wide-spread literacy, the Internet and Web blogs are doing so on a globally and technologically driven level. I’m very curious to see how this medium will develop and challenge our current perspective of journalism.