Should new media try to copy journalism, or write its own fresh story? And which fate would you choose: blogger, or citizen journalist?
As I snuffled, and croaked, and rattled my bones, from bed to bath to couch — as I took in (quite happily, it is true) pap romcom film fare, and stepped in thin sun to the shop for fresh air and weekend papers — I contemplated the big questions.
What am I doing with this small Pundit part of my life? What am I supposed to be doing with it?
It’s late in the day for self-inquiry. I am not very well-qualified to chair the inquiry. But here goes, anyway. Should blogging try to be something it isn’t, therefore doomed to always fall a bit short? Or should the measures be a bit different, because if blogging was journalism, that’s what you’d call it? Am I confusing two different things? Is Pundit a blog at all? Have I met with that awful fate: a ‘citizen journalist’?
Here’s a self-evident fact. Many many bloggers never stop to ask themselves these questions, or any questions at all, as far as I can see. Because they don’t have to: on their blogs, self-expression meets social media, and doesn’t try to be anything else. It just says, I exist. These are the things I did and thought. This tree won’t fall in the forest without making some sound; is anybody listening?
The thread running through all of them, and the thing that defines them I think, is that they tell the blogger’s story, their way.
It’s a rare social mercy, for introverts and anyone else whose — how can I put this? — head doesn’t quite fit the one-size hat. One of blogs’ curiosities is that, sometimes, the virtual voice and its real-world owner seem at odds with one another. I don’t get to test this theory often, but it holds true often enough so far.
The blog might be a fiction, I suppose, but this is a writers’ thing actually, not unique to bloggers. Would one have made friends properly with a Woolf, or an Eliot, or a Carroll, the latter said to have been “so shy that he could sit for hours at a social gathering and contribute nothing to the conversation,” if they hadn’t given us a glimpse of what else went on in their heads?
So anyway, my problem was this. One discipline, journalism, is supposed to be all about the public interest in the story, not me. Another discipline, blogging, is intrinsically all about me. Can you ever reconcile them, and how hard should one try?
Sometimes, confusingly, blogging and journalism collide. Some blogs are indistinguishable from top flight journalism, because the blogger — I’m going to say writer in this context — is a top flight journalist.
Since, I assume, public interest is the name of the game, versus interest to self and friendly virtual company, whatever I’m supposed to be doing here on Pundit, it might be better to call it writing, not blogging. And to avoid calling it journalism, especially ‘journalism’ of the ‘citizen’ kind.
In my lexicon ‘citizen journalist’ lives not far from ‘bush lawyer’ — one of those faintly disparaging terms used, I’m guessing, mostly by journalists. Many aspire to the lofty heights, apparently, but few can be chosen.
Better the lucky blogger, who gets to be just who they are.
However, I will venture that punditry, in general (small ‘p’), is something different again. It has some of the same public interest functions: it turns up the volume on a healthy lack of deference, and it might, if it was any good, spark political and social debate. But it needs a place of its own.
It’s a place with a fragile toe hold, though. Take today’s example: overnight, veteran columnist Helen Thomas was scuppered by some interesting views on Jews, after defending her place against journalists in the White House press corps, and becoming so much a part of the furniture, a centre front row seat was reserved for her personally.
And here’s an irony: writing such a very bloggy post today, supposedly about distinguishing pundits from bloggers, but really all about my small angst.
At journalism school (I imagine) they must tell the answers to all these, and many other, interesting questions; maybe everyone else in the world knows too. I just hadn’t thought it through before.
But some days, I despair of ever figuring out how to do this thing right, because this week has not seen shining examples of moral media superiority over their dodgy online counterparts.
We dove cheerfully into the scrum, over Andy Haden’s unverified contested allegation of a rugby charter with a race-based quota. I still want to know if anyone asked to see the charter. Would that have been a dumb question?
There was some Weekend Post hearsay about the “Minister told off for in-flight drinking,” referring to correspondence to the PM that “was a report from someone who had not been on the flight, relaying information from someone who had”. (Presumably, Tim Groser didn't deny and the PM's office confirmed.)
Does it exercise good news judgement? Ideally, and probably often, but, um, sometimes, no.
Here, for example, “beauty queens seek new image … say they are more than pretty faces” — so of course, it makes perfect sense to peruse all their other bikini-clad parts [from 4.49].
And this morning: Russel Norman says the Greens don’t want appearances to detract from their core message. So which headline was it, that made the news bulletins and the promos? Was this inevitable, or was somebody having a laugh? Norman dresses at party conference in a suit and tie.