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The Blogitorial: The Print/Online Hybrid

Jason Lee Miller
Staff Writer
Published: 2005-09-13

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At the turn of the 20th century, citizen journalism (then referred to as a letter to the editor) was considered an innovative and progressive idea. Giving the reader a voice in the news was unheard of at that point. Fast-forward a hundred years (give or take), and take note of the web log, the brave and testy incarnation of a new millennium.

The next turn of the century is witnessing a similar development, an extension to the conversation. It is quickly becoming obvious that, print especially, news agencies are embracing citizen journalism as a supplement to their coverage. In fact, in order to keep an edge on the competition, even to take measures against the increasing threat to print obsolescence, newspapers are extending the conversation in real time on the Webface of their publications. It's only a matter of time until a newsblog, or blogitorial, is a standard feature.

One might expect something so progressive from Yahoo! News, who just signed Kevin Sites, formerly of NBC and CNN, to be their premiere content correspondent, "backpacking" through war zones and running an online discussion at hotzone.yahoo.com. Yahoo!, obviously, is not a limb of the traditional news dinosaur.

But when the established print media does a double take of what's happening and begins working it into their strategy, it is a move to notice. The Washington Post may be the most recent example of a major news organization recognizing the value of the blog, adding Technorati to its source list to "become part of a broader national conversation," as Jim Brady, washingtonpost.com executive director, said.

Steve Outing outlines an interesting example of what direction this train is going in "The 11 Layers of Citizen Journalism." Outing suggests that along with selected stories, written by staff reporters, readers are given the opportunity to contribute to the news to further enhance the information.

"Here's an example: A series of car break-ins is occurring at trailhead parking lots in your area. A reporter writes a short article about the problem, identifying some of the locations of the vandalism. As a sidebar to the conventionally written story, trail users are invited to post their experiences of having their cars broken into, including submitting photos," writes Outing.

He goes on to admit the potential for libel issues, which is why news organizations employing this journalism hybrid should filter and edit responses as they would in printed material.

The purists in the industry, while recognizing the potential of a powerful new medium, raise concern about the fine line between reporting and editorializing, an area becoming increasingly grayed by the advent of online citizen journalism.

But as one of these purists, David Greer, member services director of the Kentucky Press Association, knows that blogs will become a force to be reckoned with.

"We're not sure what role the weblog will play in the future. But I don't think newspapers can afford to ignore these trends," Greer told WebProNews.

While the legal and legitimacy issues of bringing weblogs into the journalism family remain, they are merely kinks the system will eventually work out. We can expect the weblog, in some form, to be as prominent, if not more so, than the traditional letter to the editor.

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About the Author:
Jason L. Miller is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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