Monday, 27 August 2012

Blogging And Journalism: The Twain Met.

I grew up with a mother who loved watching the news. There was always a bit of a rush and frantic activity every evening at 5.55pm right before the nightly news came on. We sat down, sometimes even with our dinner, and Brian told us everything we needed to know.

Back in those days, there was The News and we were told The News. The next night, we were told even more News. (Often I would wonder about the previous nights News ... was it resolved? Is everything ok now, before we start again with more News we needed to know? The News would always make me worry.)

I've been consuming news for my entire life. Papers, magazines, radio and TV .. I like knowing what's happening in the world. I like to feel informed.

We now live in a world where everybody has the potential to be a news broadcaster. Through our own Facebook pages, twitter accounts, websites and blogs ... we are the ones telling the rest of the world our news. Like a global show and tell, we now filter events and opinions through our own lenses and set them free.

There's a lot of information getting set adrift out there.

On Saturday I was invited onto a panel at the Melbourne Writers Festival that discussed blogging and journalism. The conversation turned to the differences in reader engagement of blogs as opposed to online news sites, and what both can offer the other. It's a widely-known catch-cry these days to "never read the comments on a news website!" They're often flamed by vicious venters, whereas blogs can have some of the best comment sections around. With genuine interaction and discussion.

There are still no official rules or regulations for bloggers to abide by - only our own personal code of ethics. Blogging is still a strange, new thing. Bloggers can take years to find their voice, years again to use it. It takes a lot of time, effort, energy to build up a blog into something sustainable and worthwhile. We're still finding our feet in so many ways. And who are we, to tell the news? What value can we add to our respective genres within Australia's burgeoning blogging industry?

I love this line from the Sydney Writers Centre press release when Edenland won Best Blog 2012 in May:

"Eden's blog shares insights and experiences ... in a way that only a blog can."

Blogging is such a unique way of sharing information. It's so different, for so many. It confuses people too. I see people dismiss it as much as they fear it. This year Australia has seen huge shifting tides in traditional news sites and papers .. the downsizing of certain publications led to a kind of hunt for blame. I don't like the blogger versus journalist debate. We're still, all of us, hacking through the new terrain with our bush machetes.

The ABC News Director Kate Torney was also on the panel on Saturday. In February this year she spoke on the Future of Media at Melbourne's Press Club:

"I think we are in a period of extraordinary change .. the danger and challenge for us as news leaders and as media leaders, is to focus too much on the technology. Trying to map where it's heading, it's impact, and not enough time on nurturing and growing the principles that have always underpinned really great journalism. 

... I don't know where the global media landscape will be in ten years or twenty years, but I'm pretty confident that beautifully crafted stories, probing investigative journalism, and public interest reporting with strong and trusted news brands will be very much a part of that landscape."

As a blogger, I have an internal entrenched bloggism against myself, that journalism is "proper" and blogging is ... not. I hold hope that my (probably widely-shared) view will change. I hope that blogging will be an inherent and valued part of the new global media landscape.


Before the panel on Saturday, I was incredibly nervous. Felt like I had to cram for an exam, maybe I should rehearse carefully worded soundbites that made me appear learned and intellectual. In the Green Room I quickly realised I was sitting next to Henry Finder, Editorial Director of the New Yorker Magazine. He was talking and everybody was listening, murmuring in the right places. YOU ARE OUT OF UR DEPTH! Said my brain.

But my heart ... my big, open, blogger heart .. told me that I could sit there talking to Henry Finder. So I did, and he wasn't scary, he was very gracious and interesting. Interested. (With an almost alarming sense of candour and curiosity, one can talk to anybody.) We were later on the same panel and instead of being out of my depth I probably talked the most, because blogging is one of the things I'm most passionate about.

Later as the sun was setting, a beautiful volunteer driver from the festival took me to the airport in her car.  In twenty minutes, we had one of the most amazing conversations of my life. Blogging, career, religion, spirituality, death, taboos, cancer, spirit. We both cried. I'd never met her before and don't know if I ever will again - still do not know her name. We just connected, told each other our stories, our information. Our personal, yet universal news.

A shared humanity. The basis of all good writing.


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Write to be understood, speak to be heard. - Lawrence Powell

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