I traveled to lots of newspapers and press association conferences in the three years I worked for the American Press Institute. I heard lots of editors, publishers, journalists and newspaper leaders talk about blogging and other aspects of digital journalism and innovation. So I say with great confidence that disdain for bloggers is widespread (though certainly not universal) in the newspaper business.
I even saw it in a trip to Siberia last year. When Russian speakers were discussing journalism issues at a conference I attended in Barnaul, I relied heavily on interpreters softly providing simultaneous translation. But when one speaker spat out the word “blogger,” I recognized without translation. The scorn leaped across the language barrier, sounding identical to American newspaper publishers using the same word.
A favorite myth newspaper people keep repeating about bloggers is that they would have nothing to write about without newspapers. The respected Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism even produced a biased, flawed study, providing statistics for newspapers to cite (and, interestingly, some more critical numbers that didn’t get nearly as much attention from newspapers, whose leaders often like to preach about objectivity).
The Tri-City Herald repeated this myth in an editorial Wednesday. And HyperlocalBlogger Matt McGee called the Herald on its shoddy journalism in a devastating post, This is the sound of a scared newspaper.
Both are opinion pieces, which is certainly a valid exercise of journalism. But even an opinion piece should base its opinions on facts and should back up its statements of fact. The editorial cites a couple facts but doesn’t link to anything. It makes several statements of fact, without offering any documentation, links or supporting facts.
For instance, the Herald proudly proclaims:
People are turning to newspaper websites as a trusted source.
Really? Wouldn’t that statement be stronger with some substantiation? The Herald might have some substantiation beyond gut feeling or wishful thinking, but since the editorial didn’t provide any, we don’t know. However, this Zogby poll (note the link, a practice that builds credibility) shows that people trust Facebook and Twitter more than traditional media.
In contrast to the Herald piece, McGee provides extensive links to substantiate the facts that support his opinions. He doesn’t just say that newspapers also steal from bloggers; he links to an example. He doesn’t just say journalists use bloggers for research; he links to a survey of journalists.
Here’s a suggestion for my colleagues in the American Society of News Editors (of which I’m a member). This is a myth ASNE should address in its “myth-busting” series. The series primarily addresses myths about newspapers. I’d like to see ASNE (which last year dropped “paper” from its name) bust some of the myths newspapers help spread about digital journalism.
TBD respects bloggers and we’re delighted that so many are joining our TBD Community Network (and we’ll be announcing more today). We expect a lot more members of the network as we work out details of our advertising relationship and as we launch our site later this summer. And as we show respect for the information and insight the bloggers provide.