Why Christie Blatchford Won’t Blog

Christie Blatchford wrote an excellent piece in Thursday’s Globe and Mail entitled, “I’m not blogging this, mark my words.”

Her article is basically a rant about the challenges of blogging in Beijing, of the challenges of journalists blogging and of the effects that new media tools like blogs and podcasts are having on journalistic quality. I won’t recite it all for you here, but here are a few of Blatchford’s more notable points:

On journalistic quality:

This is the democratization wrought by the Web, and if it has actually helped open up closed societies such as China’s, in the West its chief effect, at least upon journalism, is to diminish whatever craft, and there is some, is left in the business.

On conversations online:

On The Globe website, our slogan is “Join the Conversation,” but in the blogosphere, what follows isn’t usually a conversation but a brief, ungrammatical shouting match. You can have more pensive chats in a bar fight.

On writing:

It is not true that anyone can write. It is not true that anyone can write on deadline. It is not true that anyone can do an interview. It is not true that anyone can edit themselves and sort wheat from chaff. It is not true that even great productive writers like The Globe’s Jim Christie or Ms. DiManno or Mr. Farber can hit a home run every time they sit before the laptop. But the odds of them doing it are greatly increased if they haven’t already filed 1,200 words to the Web, shot a video, done a podcast and blogged ferociously all day long.

I don’t agree with all of Blatchford’s points about blogging, but I think she does hit a few home runs with this piece.

Journalists are being asked to do more and more with their time. I don’t think, as she quotes Michael Farber saying, that we only have a finite number of words in us, but if you have to get more and more words out every day the quality is surely going to down.

The blogosphere does sometimes degenerate into a shouting match. Of course, you will encounter idiots and immaturity wherever you go but it’s more visible online. I think the key there is a good commenting policy and smart moderation. Unfortunately, I think the law of averages plays a part – as a site gets more popular, a certain percentage of readers will engage in mindless shouting.

Writing is an art. Not everyone can do it well. One of my old bosses was fond of saying that you can’t teach everyone to write well; it takes a certain level of talent to do it. That means that some sites will be poorly written, and that readers have to learn to be discerning in what they read. That also means taking some responsibility for what you choose to consume.

What do you think of Blatchford’s article?

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  • I’m a bit late to this, but I did want to comment, Dave. I agree with Christie in that she portends to want to protect the “craft” of journalism. I think it’s laudable anytime someone wants to elevate their learning and take a leadership role in their field. However, when you take the overall article in context (and here’s where I disagree) I certainly smell overtones of hiding behind “professional” as wanting to protect hegemony over a rapidly changing industry. I am a blogger and proud of it. I do get out there and talk to people and do the best research I (personally) can before I post. Her article does a disservice to bloggers who do those things, as a journalist would.

    Remember, it was “professionals” who drove Enron into the ground and the chaos that created. It was “professionals” who got too greedy and helped perpetuate the US mortgage crisis. I’m all for using professional in the right context, but Christie’s article doesn’t pass the sniff test at all.

  • I ‘mostly’ agree with Blatch (and not because she is my dog’s ‘dogmother’!). I do believe that, for the most part, there is a schism in the quality of writing between a true journalist and your typical blogger. However, that’s kind of the point. Blogging is more a mean s of commentary than it is structured, artistic writing… and that’s o.k.! I think people read blogs to get commentary and insight in a non-formalized way.

    Now it could be said that what we’re seeing here is the age-old separation of generations – status quo (older and established) vs. change (younger and seeking to carve out new niches).

    The one thing that I do recognize in what Christie says is the part about how on-line discussions too often degenerate into poorly written statements of opinion presented as fact. We’ve all seen that… and it does indeed detract from truly thoughtful exchanges of ideas.

    When you get down to it, if someone has a thought or an idea to share and they want to do that, then I say all the power to them for doing so. It’s just that I don’t try to hold them up to the standards of a professional writer. No different than saying sure I can drive a car, but I’m no Formula 1 or Rallye driver. This doesn’t mean that all bloggers are poor writers, it just means that you have to understand what you are ‘consuming’ and do so with an open mind.

  • As someone else pointed out (maybe Chris Clarke), one of the first comments left by a reader on Blatchford’s article was “Great blog post!” or something to that effect.
    I think she’s getting a little high and mighty, considering that she is working in an industry (print journalism) that many would consider to be dead and dying.

  • Jacki Hobbin

    I’m in journalism school at the moment and I have to say I was appalled at the condescending tone Christie took over blooging.

    Yes, it’s often a ramshackle affair when it comes to professionalism and commenters – but then journalism hasn’t always been the shining beacon of truth and facts either.

    Ironically, I found another blog post about this that made some very valid points (and stirred up a bit of debate in the Comments box):

    http://dannybrown.me/2008/10/04/the-dinosaur-and-the-journalist/