Where do blogs fit in the journalistic process?
Blogs are, inescapably, occupying increasingly more of the media landscape. According to blog aggregator Technorati, their assessment of the number of blogs in existence in 2005 was 14 million, but by 2007 it was 70 million – a five-fold increase. In 2008 that count almost doubled to 133 million. Blogs are plentiful and cover a wide variety of content, some more useful than others – to say the least. But how are they used by professional journalist? Where, and to what extent, do blogs fit within the journalistic process?
In November of 2008 Cision and George Washington University launched an online study of 12,337 editors and journalists that featured questions on how various sources of information were utilized, including blogs. In all, 745 journalists across primarily North America but also Europe agreed to participate.
Eight out-of-ten journalists said they used blogs for their editing and reporting
Results of that study showed that journalists surveyed used various sources for their editing and reporting, including websites (100%), submissions from PR professionals (94%), and press kits (87%). The usage of these traditional resources comes as no surprise. However, the majority of journalists surveyed also said they use blogs (79%) in their editing and reporting, almost as much as industry newswires (81%). A considerable accomplishment given that blogs have been in existence arguably for just 10 years or so and really only exploded in volume and usage in the past four years. According to our results, usage of blogs is even high among those who have the most experience in the media field; 76 percent of those working in the media for 30 or more years use blogs for editing and reporting – 15 percent of whom use them “at least once per day.”
Knowing that editing and reporting is part of the journalistic process, but not all of it, we also asked journalists a similar question concerning other functions, such as the importance of various information sources for “identifying or developing story ideas” and “monitoring responses to stories.”
Blogs are an important source of information when tracking reactions to stories
Journalists rated blogs as the second most important source of information (behind websites in general) when it comes to monitoring responses to their stories. Journalists whose media careers coincided with the evolution of blogs (those working 14 or fewer years) rate blogs as significantly more important than those with longer work experience in the media (15 years or more) for monitoring responses to stories. Journalists reported that while blogs are less important overall compared to other sources for identifying or developing story ideas, they are significantly more important in this function to those working in the media 14 or fewer years compared to those working 15 or more years.
What of social networking sites?
Social networking sites as an information source were also included in the study and fully half of the journalists responding said that they use these sites in their editing and reporting. Like blogs, this finding is especially noteworthy given the relative age of the medium, with social networking sites generally being recognized initially in the late 1990s – barely 10 years ago. Usage is highest among younger journalists – almost two-thirds of those aged 29 or younger said they used them for their editing and reporting compared to just over half of those age 30 to 49. Age is also a factor regarding social networking site usage when it comes to other aspects of the journalistic function; identifying or developing story ideas and also monitoring responses to stories. Journalists who have been working in the media for 14 or fewer years rated social networking sites as significantly more important than did those working 15 or more years in the media for both of the aforementioned aspects of the journalistic process.
It is that heady, immediate access to information afforded by social media resources such as blogs, social networking sites and status update microblog services (read: Twitter) that anyone could not help but take advantage of, whether you are a teenager updating friends about a party, or a journalist on deadline in need of a quote.
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