Friday, September 18, 2009

Journalists vs. Bloggers: The Battle Continues

I am currently working on a column about the joys and pains of blogging for the National Association of Black Journalists Journal. I’m talking with reporters who blog as part of their jobs. I’ve been doing this blog (and a previous incarnation of it) since July 2004. I started a work-related blog on the airport/security industry in August 2006 and currently contribute to Aviation Week's Things With Wings and Business Aviation Now blogs and write guest posts for other industry-related blogs.

Two questions seem to always come up when journalists talk about blogging: are bloggers as responsible as us and why should I do it? I’ll answer the second question in my Journal article. Today’s column will tackle the first question, which was spurred by a blog post from one of my Twitter followers – Nomadic Matt’s Travel Site – who asked “Is Travel Blogging Real Journalism?”

The simple answer is yes – and no. Just like journalists, there are good and bad bloggers out there (Matt happens to be one of the good ones). “Journalists think bloggers aren’t as good and bloggers don’t want to be associated with the `old media,’” writes Matt. “Clearly blogging is a new form of writing. But to me blogging is a more casual style that discusses your thoughts, hobbies, feelings. Journalism denotes a bit more research, formality, and neutrality in your writing.”

Since I am steeped in aviation, I’ll use what I see out there to illustrate this point. One of my good friends is Brett Snyder, who writes The Cranky Flier blog. Snyder is a self-described airline geek who uses his blog to demystify the industry via details and humor.

Back in April, Snyder, along with around a dozen other aviation reporters, attended the Phoenix Aviation Symposium, a must-attend event for the industry. While he was there, he snagged an interview with JetBlue CEO David Barger. JetBlue is among a handful of airlines that treats respected bloggers like Snyder with the same respect as journalist.

Snyder lives in Long Beach, Calif., and has followed JetBlue’s efforts to get a new airport terminal in that focus city. In what he called a throwaway question, he asked Barger about the progress being made.

What happened next ended up getting Snyder – and his blog – national coverage. Barger used the interview to blast Long Beach Airport’s management for dragging its feet on the promised expansion. You can read my post about it here. Long story short, the story got picket up by the Long Beach Press-Telegram, the LA Times, BusinessWeek and USA Today, stirring up a debate on bloggers as journalists.

What is lost in the noise of this conversation is that like it or not, bloggers — especially one with the good reputation of Snyder — are doing the same hard work that I do as a journalist. It is dangerous for people and organizations to just blow off Snyder and other bloggers. After all, it was Snyder that actually broke this story; only then was it picked up by the “regular” media.

The Long Beach Press-Telegram even wrote a story entitled "Don't Shoot The Blogger, In This Case." “Not all blogs are reliable, but Snyder's certainly seems to have a good reputation,” said the story. “So while the [Long Beach city] council may not always like the news, it shouldn't shoot the messenger.”

Yes, there are thousands of industry-related blogs out there, and 90+ percent of them aren't worth reading. But Cranky is not one of them, and there are many other airline/aviation bloggers out there doing great reporting. The ones on my Google Reader include:

In the end, it’s all about who you trust, whether you are a journalist, a blogger or both. I am a huge fan of social media rock star Chris Brogan, who coined the phrase “trust agent.” He defines it as: “people who use the web in a very human way to build influence, reputation, awareness, and who can translate that into some kind of business value.”

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