In one of my first journalism classes, in 2009, the professor pointed out that on the main page of the online New York Times, the top story was from one of their blogs, The Lede. He said that the addition of a blog — constantly updating with fresh content — with the old-fashioned front page of the New York Times signaled a seismic shift in journalism.
Looking at the NYT front page now, there is no division between stories from blogs and “normal” stories. In fact, I can’t find any indication that any story is any different from any other story, as far as the journalistic process or sources. There is no menu of blogs or anything listed as a blog. Instead, every reporter at the NYT has probably had to add some of the features of blogging to their skillset.
However, the NYT has kept the elements that have always made it a good news source — great reporting and editing, fact-checking, exclusive sources, and ethical practices.
Another site I read a lot, Gawker, feels like it has made a transformation in the opposite direction. Years ago, I mostly read Gawker to get a snarky and usually well-written (though not well-edited) take on gossip, media news, and culture. The bloggers there seemed to find the same stuff interesting and funny that I did, and they would usually find the things that I would have clicked on at other sites, added some commentary and a link, and posted it on Gawker or Jezebel.
As the years went on, though, they started publishing more original reporting and interviews, personal essays that had a more serious tone, and other “real” journalism. They are also able to use their army of commenters to find sources on unique stories. And their looser ethical and legal rules allow them to print stuff that might not be vetted to the level of the NYT. Now, their bloggers seem to alternate between the old snarky blogging and more serious reporting — often by the same writer, on the same day.
These and similar examples remind me that journalism is far from dying, that it is constantly renewing itself and assimilating new forms like blogging, Twitter, video, multimedia, reader participation, and so on. Blogs like Buzzfeed that used to exist solely to find out which Game of Thrones character your cat is, now publish serious journalism, including war reporting and investigative work.
Steve Outing’s twin pieces for Poynter about what bloggers can learn from journalists and vice versa point out that establishment journalism and blogging have much to offer each other. And in order to survive, journalism will have to reinvent itself in this way. At the same time, hanging onto ethical rules, quality standards, and editing will ensure that readers still find something worthy of reading.