Blogs are not a “substitute”

Print media are in dire trouble – but blogs are no substitute says Andrew Sullivan in the Times Online:

The terrifying problem is that a one-man blog cannot begin to do the necessary labour-intensive, skilled reporting that a good newspaper sponsors and pioneers. A world in which reporting becomes even more minimal and opinion gets even more vacuous and unending is not a healthy one for a democracy. Perhaps private philanthropists will step in and finance not-for-profit journalistic centres, where investigative and foreign reporting can be invested in and disseminated by blogs and online sites. Maybe reporter-bloggers will start rivalling opinion-mongers such as me and give the whole enterprise some substance. Maybe papers can slim down sufficiently to produce a luxury print issue and a viable online product. There’s always a hunger for news, after all.

I’m not a journalist nor a reporter and have no experience in mainstream media but I understand the Web and I think Sullivan gets it completely wrong. First of all, there is no such thing as a “one-man blog”, as all blogs are connected to other blogs and media. Also, blogs are not limited by print space, so articles can be much longer than print media offers and most have hyperlinks to more information. This is a richer reading experience, where facts can be checked while reading and engage the reader to do more than receive the wisdom imparted by the journalist. Comments and self-corrections keep blogs on-track, as opposed to corrections that appear in a newspaper the next day on page 12. What Sullivan proposes with a slimmed-down paper and online presence already exists with magazines, like FastCompany. On one thing I will agree; blogs are not a substitute for newspapers, they are an entirely new medium and are just starting to find their place after the initial exuberance.

Directly comparing print media with digital media is the wrong approach but is often heard in education as well. A webinar is not as rich as a classroom, or you cannot replace face-to-face interaction with the instructor, are common complaints. Digital media enable new kinds of relationships, some richer and some more limited, but the Web offers much that we did not have before. I am certain that democracy, and learning, can be enhanced with digital media, but we have to stop looking back with simplistic and direct comparisons, and get on with making our interconnected world work.

6 Responses to “Blogs are not a “substitute””

  1. ismael

    newspapers or blogs?
    bricks and mortar classrooms or educational blogs?
    peer reviewed academic journals or blogs?
    coffee with your friends or personal blogs?

    I cannot believe we’re still in the “either…or” stage of things.

    I fully agree, Harold, that this is way a most simplistic approach of comparing things.

  2. Guy Boulet

    I agree with you that blogs, or other web applications, are not substitutes to traditional media. I see them more as alternatives.

    Like online shopping is not meant to replace physical stores but to offer an alternate mean to reach customers, especially new customers physically distants, blogs are not meant to replace newpapers or magazines but to offer an alternate way to get information on specific subject matters.

    I own a car, does that mean I can’t walk to the convenience store anymore?

    Why keep only one when both can be useful?

  3. Virginia Yonkers

    I find it ironic that one of the most active and engaged election in decades in the US was just conducted with the help of blogs and other electronic media. Perhaps I have misread what democracy is…a number of voices. Is it me or is this philosophy that only journalists can interpret events condensending to the average reader?

  4. Censurer General

    “Perhaps private philanthropists will step in and finance not-for-profit journalistic centres”

    Ah – just what we need – more biased and partisan reporting in the Main $tream Media.

    These newspapers are failing, in part, because they refused to cover the systematic corruption their international owners engaged in, to the detriment of all sorts of individuals and enterprises.

    Now that they’re getting their comeuppance, the sycophant corporate reporters want our sympathy?

    I don’t think so; not while they uncritically champion the bankster ‘bailout’ thievery we’re now seeing.

    A press corps that lies by omission isn’t much better than no press corps at all.

  5. Mike B

    I realize that blogs are not newspapers and should not be directly compared. But I know that newspaper readership is down and more people are flocking to the Internet and blogs for their news and opinions. As a sign of the financial problems the newpaper industry is facing, look at the Tribune Company which is seeking bankruptcy protection. A blog may not be a one-man effort, but very few blogs can afford to do real investigative reporting and collect information over weeks or months to uncover the hidden truth. To that end, I hope that print newpapers are able to survive in this new Internet world.

  6. Elearning India

    I happen to agree with your views. Blogs, or even online news sites for that matter do not compare to newspaper that we all are so used to. The whole process of creating a single newspaper is so intricate, it involves the collective effort of thousands of persons. I just hope the bad times go away soon considering how many individuals it directly or indirectly employs.


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