I’ve NOT sent the invitation to people keeping blogs on MSM websites who are clearly framed NOT as journalists but as civilians doing interesting things keeping a blog.  If it is ambiguous whether or not the person is a journalist, I am sending the survey.  One individual has already written back to ask if s/he should complete the survey because s/he does not self-identify as a journalist. 

It’s interesting to see the way that some writers reflect on their writing process and the meaning of the journalism work they do in a blog form…and also how this relates to the difficulty of classifying blogs as narrative types.  This musing is from  Elizabeth Withey at the Emonton Journal, who in the same weeks wrote about topics as diverse as being a bridesmaid and Edmonton provincial politics: 

I’m having trouble writing about all my Ontario adventures last week because I feel preoccupied and distressed about the situation in the Middle East. Everything I’d write about — the humidity, the dizzying (and nauseating) abundance of multi-coloured Crocs footwear, the wine sampling in Niagara-on-the-Lake, the sour milk I accidentally drank at the CN Tower — seems so trivial. I can’t imagine going on summer vacation with my family only to find myself stuck abroad in a war zone, terrorized by air raids, unable to get to safety until the government came to rescue me.

In some ways the blog form reminds me of the emergence of the novel as a literary genre, in the sense that suddenly there is a proliferation of personal detail and personal consciousness available through that form.  And it’s neat that so many journalists manage both to do “straight” commentary about politics mixed with personal musings. 

Roles of hybrid bloggers

April 18, 2006

Abby and I start formulating interview questions soon.  Here’s a recently-published interview with a blogger / journalist about the roles and how they interact at the online journalism review.  

Started tracking MacLean’s website last night for blog URL’s and references.  Abby and I discussed the fact that there does not seem to be very many blogging references in what we would loosely term hard news, although there are some in features, particularly business features.   Due to this we are tracking a lot of info in this preminary stage just to sketch the cyber scene so to speak.

I made up a tracking sheet that notes:  date, headline, byline, bio, URL of reference, specific subject of blogging reference, links to outside media, links to outside blogs   In addition I started to develop a way of categorizing the findings under “main type of reference.”  The types I am identifying are:

1.  Hybrid blog writing (HY) or Online column (OL).  I am NOT tracking wether or not something is an online feature exclusively or it is also in the print edition – only if it appears online framed as a blog or if it appears to be a regular news or feature piece.   Granted, this definition is loose since MacLeans uses “blog” to name both what Inkless Wells does and what Brian Bethune’s book column and notes do. 

2.  Subject matter:  Culture (CU),  Entertainment (EN),  Politics (PO), Busines (BU).   

General findings – fairly regular writing about the blogging phenomenon.  I am surprised at how much MacLean’s references American debates and media.  I see little evidence to suggest that the MacLeans bloggers and online writers are in touch with any kind of radical thought facilitiated by blogging, with the exception of the Iranian freedom of speech blogs.  

Am getting my hands on a book on indy media, grassroots journalism and blogging just published in Montreal by anti-corporate indy media community – Concordia M.A. thesis by activist.   Vinita has it, must remember to remind her to bring it. 

General note – most of the blogging referenced by mainstream media is meta commentary on journalism and politics by hybrid bloggers, no?  The kind of writing people would have been considered “indiscreet” for not so long ago?   Ex.  David Aiken on the Hill.

I started to search three weeks of online archives up to today for blog, blogging, blogosphere, and www* to see if there are instances of news linking to the blogging world.   I’ll post detailed compiled research about this, but in the meanwhile, some observations:

  • There are three kinds of references to blogs coming up:  Firstly, stories about the election and blogs.  We are not focussing on election blogs, because many seem to have been time sensitive.   I did not track these references.  
  • Secondly: stories about blogging trends, which mostly don’t refer to the impact of blogging on driving a news agenda.   I tracked any blogs mentioned in these stories if they were of the media / politico / indy media type, not if they were personal diary or corporate.      
  • Thirdly: “Hybrid blogs”:  those blogs produced by mainstream media which may link to other blogs or hybrid blogs.  
  • I found no links to blogs in online hard news. 

Summaries and Points of Interest

– Globe and Mail:  Search went to Dan Cook’s “blog” – what we are coding as a hybrid blog (HB).    This HB features lists of links to mainstream national and international news outlets, alternative news sources, blogs, hybrid blogs, and some original reporting exclusively in the form of raw chronological lists of time-sensitive events (i.e. Supreme Court judge review).        

– National Post:  Does not seem possible to search National Post proper archive because website is part of a hub with canada.com.  Very annoying.   Search for “blog” links away from National Post, not towards the Post’s “hybrid bloggers”  (Andrew Coyne, Adam Radwanski).

-CBC:  A lot of election material linking to blogs, but no hard news or hard newsy features with blog links or references.   Link to fictional blog about a flu pandemic (Jan  11th 5th Estate show); Oscar Blog Feb 27, 2005;  blog search turns up no links, but can access Rick Mercer’s blog and Zed’s blog from the CBC show.  So – is their search function not combing full text, or what…

– Toronto Star – blog query leads to education blog link, which leads to links to all the Toronto Star’s blogs.   Antonia Zerbisias references both both indy and hybrid bloggers.  She’s the only hybrid blogger I’ve seen so far who is referencing bloggers tracking the Americans’ war in Iraq.    

 more later…

SRS  

A ton bloggers reject a definition of blogging.  Yet, in order to study blogging, we need a definition.  We talked about what it means to come up with a definition that contains within it the seed of invalidating that definition.  (This is the kind of issue raised all the time in theology and philosophy, no?).  

I wondered whether or not blogging is a second wave internet anarchic response to the appropriation of the internet by corporate control. 

After much reading, discussion, and on-line perusing, for the purposes of the study we decided to go with a definition provided by Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber Dissidents by Reporters Without Borders:

 “A ‘blog’ or ‘weblog’ is a personal website:

  • containing mostly news
  • regularly updated
  • in the form of a diary (most recent posts at the top of the page)
  • with most of the posts also arranged in categories.
  • set up designed using a specially designed interactive tool.
  • usually created and run by a single person, sometimes anonymously.

A blog’s posts:

  • usually test (including external links), sometimes with pictures and, more and more often, sound and video
  • can be commented on by visitors
  • are archived on the blog and can be accessed there indefinetly.
  • Like a personal webpage, except it’s
  • easier to set up and maintain, and so much more active and more frequently updated.
  • encourages a more open style and franker viewpoints.
  • greatenly encourages discussion ith visitors and other bloggers.
  • sets a standard worldwide format for blogs, involving similar methods (2 or 3 column layout, comments on posts and RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed.”  

“I hate the passive voice.”

That’s the first thing I that haunted me when Dr. Goodrum (Abby) asked me to create a blog for this project: the voice of Suanne Kelman, my radio teacher. 

I was reading the abstract that Abby and I submitted for an academic conference, and getting ready to put it on the main page of the blog.  Abby wrote it, and we edited it together.  It’s written in the right style for that.  But for a blog that hopes to reach journalists too?  As I read the final draft, I had visions of Suanne going ballistic with a red pen. 

According to Suanne, all the two year journalism students at Ryerson (“JRADs”) come into the program with an addiction to the passive voice that’s customary in academia.

I asked Abby’s advice.  Who’s the blog’s audience?  If we keep the passive voice, people like Suanne or other journalists we hope to engage might be prone to slipping into a catatonic state.  But if we put away all academic language, will the academic types take it seriously? Will we lose the theoretical framework? 

Abby said issues like this are going to come up more and more at the j-school as it brings in more academics, so we may as well start experimenting now with the blog. We came up with the idea of posting both a plain description of the project and the academic abstract.