More DNC Blogger Thoughts: Media and Journalism

When I was talking about the "DNC Bloggers" before, I was talking about the "official" bloggers, the ones that the Democrats invited with no other affiliation to the convention. But you know what? It dawned on me the obvious thing that *we're all bloggers now*. And that means that there will undoubtedly be people blogging from the floor as well. I look forward to reading their thoughts. And I extend my advice to them as well.

One more thought: Don't trust the Media.

Here's a true story. About a dozen years ago during my Summer break from college, I was working in North Conway, New Hampshire. The town has a few attractions there, one of them being a huge cliff wall for climbing, thus there were a bunch of rock climbers in the area (I worked a couple stores away from an REI-style outdoors store), and the style at the time for these guys was a buzz-cut. Being just out of the 80s, the look was pretty radical (at least to me) and I decided that I wanted to have the same haircut. But to save myself some money on haircuts, I went down to the local K-Mart and got a hair clipper so I could db the job myself.

So I got home one night with my "cheapest-model-possible" hair clipper and started buzzing my head. I started on the right side and started moving left. Right about when I got to the middle of my head (one half of my head is now essentially bald) the clippers jammed. They just stopped cutting, all noise, no movement. So I got out the screw driver to see if I could lift up the back of the clippers a little bit, everything slipped out of my hands and crashed to the floor in a million pieces. Great.

So the next morning I popped on a baseball cap to go to work, but I had pretty long hair at the time, so it was still pretty obvious there was something odd going on underneath. And then people were wondering why I was wearing a cap at work... I called around to local hairdressers (there were no barbers) and got an appointment for around noon. Wonderful. So after dealing with my coworkers for the morning, I finally showed up to the hairdressers and asked them to fix it. But in my youth and stupidity I mentioned how I was trying to "save money" cutting my own hair.

"Oh! So you're trying to take away my livelihood, hey?" Oh. No. "Hey Joanne! This guy is trying to put us out of business!" So I spent the next half hour or so getting verbally abused by all the hair dressers in the shop (and she wasn't particularly gentle on my scalp either). Then I had to pay. When I got out of there I couldn't figure out if I never wanted to pay anyone to cut my hair again, or just the opposite. (Turns out the latter as I've never cut my own hair since).

This lesson pertains to bloggers (follow me now). Despite the fact that many of us know that Bloggers aren't Journalists, there is a lot of confusion in the area and I'm willing to bet quite a lot of antipathy on the part of Journalists who don't really get it. I even heard this term the other day which I hadn't heard before, "standalone journalism". Oh, come off it.

So what's going to happen at a big convention like the DNC? Well, some journalist is going to be trolling about for news, buddy up to a blogger who'll talk about "social revolution" or some nonsense like that and this guys is going to think, "So! You're trying to take away my livelihood, hey?" and set about teaching that blogger and the blogging world a lesson. I can see it happening. And if it's an organization as biased as Fox News? Watch out.

Let me say again, that I went to college for Journalism and was an editor and reporter for a couple years before moving into technology. That doesn't make me an expert, but it showed me quite a bit about the basic tenets of Journalism 101: fact-checking, multiple sources, correct spelling, grammar and style (we had tests the AP Style Guide - how to write a.m. and the proper capitalization and use of titles like Governor). We learned how to quote, how to paraphrase, and how not to insert outright opinion. We also learned how to write about things we don't particularly want to write about. In short, we learned how to write for a living.

Bloggers don't write about a subject unless they have a personal interest in the subject. Journalists write because it's their job. Covering the local men's softball league (yawn) or the public works commission meeting (torture) or going down to the police station and copying down the incident reports from the log (bleh). These are not fun things, but this is what journalists are paid to do because someone, somewhere likes to read about this stuff and honestly - you've got to fill the paper every day. Every once in a while something jumps out which is truly newsworthy, but for the most part of a journalists life, it's menial and many times boring work.

After years of paying their dues, journalists can then have someone pay them to do investigative reporting, or do longer more thoughtful pieces for the Sunday edition or go and cover the Democratic National Convention. But this year? The bloggers are there. Aren't they special? Some journalist has been working his ass off, writing 20 column inches a day for the past 10 years and some blogger who writes unedited, unresearched opinion as a hobby for the past couple of years and has a few hundred thousand readers (skimmers really, mostly robots called aggregators) gets an invite. Or some kid who's part of the convention with a free Blogger account thinks he's the next Bob Woodward because he's kept his blog up for a whole month.

Get what I'm saying? You can pretty much assume this guy has nothing but disdain for bloggers and blogging. Don't think he's your friend. You may have a few things in common (you're both "writers" for instance) but beyond that? He just thinks you're trying to put him out of business.

So to summarize my thoughts on the matter, think about the consequences of what you write, and regardless of what type of badge hangs around your neck, don't think you're a journalist and don't think they're your buddies either.


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