Blogging and Journalism

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Technologies such as personal computers, the Internet, and easy-to-use blogging platforms, such as Blogger and Tumblr, now allow the general public to actively participate in journalism. This essay will argue that blogging is transforming modern journalism into a field that has a strong society-based focus, similar to that of traditional 18th century journalism. Firstly, I will outline the nature of 18th century journalism and establish the significance of blogging within modern journalism. A discussion on the varying backgrounds of those who participate in journalistic activity will follow. Finally, an increased acceptance of journalistic subjectivity will be illustrated. These points will provide evidence to support the idea that blogging is encouraging a return of society-based journalism.

During the 1800’s, the general public were heavily involved in journalistic activity. Because of this, the term “journalist” was used to describe a person who was involved in journalistic activity, not a person who did such activity as a career (Barlow, 2007). Journalistic pieces were typically opinion-based discussions about current political events and movements. For example, African American writer, Fredrick Douglas, frequently attacked the institution of slavery in his 1847 pieces for The North Star (Stephens, n.d.). It was not until the 19th century rise of media chains, such as Hearst and Pulitzer, that newspapers began to “consider themselves not “of” society, but “about society” “ (Barlow, 2007, p. xv). Newspapers soon began restricting opinion pieces in an attempt to gain a wider audience. By objectively reporting news to a public who desired factual information during events such as the American Civil War, media chains were able to significantly increase profits. However, the transformation of the media during this time meant that the general public was no longer encouraged to participate in the journalism. Much journalistic power was therefore transferred to large corporate media chains and away from wider society.

Until the birth of the Blogosphere, corporate media chains maintained their domination of the journalistic field. However, in the early 1990s, blogs began to appear on the Internet, once again providing the general public with an opportunity to participate in journalism. As Barlow (2007) observes, almost anybody with access to the Internet was now able to become a published journalist. As Helmond (2008) acknowledges, the numerical quantity of blogs on the Internet is now difficult to estimate because they are too quickly expanding. Furthermore, in 2008 it was estimated that 77% of active Internet users read blogs (Universal McCann, as cited by Winn, 2009). Although few accurate studies have been conducted since, blog ‘hit’ rates suggest that this percentage continues to grow. For example, celebrity gossip blogger, Perez Hilton, attracts over 10.2 million unique visitors to his blog, perezhilton.com, every month (Top 15 most Popular Blogs, October 2012). This figure becomes even more impressive when one considers that OK! Magazine, the world’s most popular gossip magazine, only attracts an estimated 2 million readers per month (Reynolds, 2009). This information suggests that the days of media chains dominating the journalistic field may have come to an end. As the general public gains access to a significant amount of journalistic power, it appears that the influence of media chains becomes increasingly insignificant. As a result, journalism appears to now posses a strong society-based focus, as those in power are, once again, the general public. This transformation appears to be a technologically induced reoccurrence of traditional 18th century journalism.

A return to a more society-focused journalism is further emphasised when one considers the varying backgrounds of those who now have significant journalistic power within the Blogosphere. As previously stated, traditionally, journalists were...
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