In chapter four of Jill Walker Rettberg’s Blogging, we read once more about blogging and journalism. Just because you write a blog doesn’t make it journalism, but if you’re a participant in or are directly affected by an event and you write a personal diary about it, you could indeed be a journalist. According to “Journalism of Verification”, journalism is about getting down what happened right, and if your tweets for instance accurately portray a situation, then they should be considered journalism.
Rettberg mentions the Free Flow of Information Act which allows journalists to shield their sources, and how it defined a journalist. The debate over whether bloggers are journalists is much bigger than just an academic debate, and could have real legal implications. The definition of someone protected by the act was defined in 2006 as a person “who, for financial gain or livelihood” is working at a news agency or is an independent contractor for some professional organization. I’m not sure that I’d qualify under this act. Even if I started doing journalism, I’m not making any money from it, nor is it my job. But if the information I write is credible, am I a journalist? That’s the debate.
In earlier readings I read that to be credible, journalists should be transparent, revealing their personal information and making their identities known. Some well-known bloggers use pseudonyms though, and it’s okay. Why are they able to get away with using fake names? Well, the question should rather be: why are they trusted in the first place? The reason: personal authenticity. If you use a fake name but what you write is genuine, and you communicate openly with your readers and you verify what you’ve written, you will probably still be respected.
In chapter 6, Rettberg discusses commercial blogs and corporate blogs. Successful corporate blogs are about connecting with people in ways other than selling products, such as establishing trust or writing about industry news, but there are a lot of commercial blogs that started out as non-commercial blogs. Many of them start out small and grow over time, and then their authors decide to start running ads to live off of the posts they write. Lots of times readers complain about this, that the authors are selling out, but usually it’s a benefit overall.
The problem with commercial blogging arises when companies sponsor bloggers to promote certain products, and in a sense buy the trust the blogger has established and use it to advertising. Sure, you can use pay-per-post services to earn money, but at what cost? The quality of writing goes down, and your site starts to look like those get-rich-quick scam blogs.