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FROM THE HELM: IS BLOGGING JOURNALISM?

There was a time when people who wanted to share their opinion or news with the masses were limited to submitting a letter to their local newspaper, calling a radio talk show, speaking at local municipal meetings or erecting a sign in their front yard.

The Internet has changed that. Anyone with an opinion and a computer can easily pontificate to their heart's content on blog sites, which now number more than 12 million at last count by those who keep track of such things.

But is blogging journalism? It's a question being asked more frequently as blogging contains to grow in popularity, and some bloggers consider themselves journalists.

For the uninitiated, a blog (an abridgment of the term web log) is a Web site created and maintained by a person who wants to comment or share news on a particular subject – politics is often the most popular. Many people use their blogs as personal online journals, complete with photos and links to other blogs and Web sites.

So, is news blogging or political blogging journalism? Some think so. In fact, a few individuals envisioned a future when blogs will replace the traditional media as the primary source of news and commentary.

That's scary. There's plenty of room for both journalism and blogging on the Internet, but one practice should not be mistaken for, or replace, the other.

While blogging may be a discussion, it's one often dominated by one person's point of view. There is no adhering to traditional, professional journalism standards.

I'm not disparaging bloggers. Blogging is an extremely democratic communication tool, one that compliments traditional journalism. Read a factual, verified story from a reliable professional news source, and then go online to speculate or discover how others feel – it can be very therapeutic and often unifying.

In fact, what bloggers are doing is similar to what I do every Saturday in this column – offering a single-minded take on any given issue. I don't consider this column to be journalism, but opinion – although one that adheres to established journalism standards.

Journalists' work is based on reporting, verification and access. And a reporter's stories are vetted by other professionals – editors and copy editors – before they are published. This kind of teamwork and expertise is called "journalism."

Bloggers are participants in a game called public opinion, often using unsupported information to make their point.

Some bloggers don't care about the veracity of the stories they are spreading. Their concern is for controversy and making a name for themselves. All one needs to do is type the words "Curry County" and "blog" into an Internet search engine to find blogs of this sort. And the creators of such blogs are counting on people to confuse blogging with journalism.

Think about this. From whom would you rather get your news: a professional journalist or someone in their pajamas with an ax to grind, typing furiously on their home computer?

Again, I am not disparaging the work of bloggers. Blogs are a truly unique form of communication. But lets not put their work in the same category as journalism.

Blogging is not journalism. When we separate the two, and understand what each has to offer, we honor both.

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