When does a blog piece turn into actual journalism?

A personal note from Tmatt. In the past week, my longer post on the same-sex marriage editorial flap at Baylor has kind of run off and developed a life of its own. This past Sunday, a shortened version ran on the op-ed page of the Dallas Morning News. And, after noticing that the Baylor story seemed to have some legs, I have re-written the material again for use as my Scripps Howard syndicate column this week. The home page for my columns is www.tmatt.net, by the way.

But this leads me to a question I have wanted to ask, seeking some feedback concerning this blog. The focus of GetReligion.org is the mainstream media’s coverage of religion news. So far, Doug and I have offered quite a bit of short, quick commentary on articles in the media, but we have also ventured into some personal opinion writing about “what it all means.”

So here is my question: When does blog writing actually turn into journalism? When does it turn into an actual editorial column? Another way to ask the question is to ask whether you, the readers, prefer short, chatty pieces with a dash of personal commentary, or the longer pieces (“What would Richard Ostling do?”) that try to weave references to several news articles into a larger trend piece. I mean, is there an official length — 600-plus words, let’s say — where this “blogging” thing evolves into something else? What think ye?

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • http://www.einvolved.org Stacy L. Harp

    Hello Terry,

    I like both. I enjoy reading the longer pieces when I take the time and I like the added links so I can search it out even more.

    I also like the opinion of the writer because I think or rather thought that was what a blog is all about – my opinion.

    I think where the networks get in trouble is where the do this advocacy journalism instead of trying to be down the middle.

    Hope that helps.

  • John Koontz

    I find length almost irrelevant when reading your writing. It’s unfailingly engaging, even when I’m not all that concerned with the subject. I cannot think of an occasion thus far when your lengthier pieces did not develop the “story” in an interesting way. I suspect that the subject, as well as your own interest in it and comfort with it, will generally influence the length of the piece. Whatever you’re doing, you’re doing just fine.

  • http://u2sermons.blogspot.com Beth

    I also like them both. The more casual, personal posts are interesting and clever, but the trend pieces are something from which I really learn. Both make me think, and I would hope to see both continue, whether or not they conform to the official blog canon (if there is such a thing.)

  • http://www.brutallyhonest.org RickinVa


    I don’t think you should handcuff yourself by deciding either way…

    Be who you are… and let it flow.

    If it’s long and engaging, it probably ought to be.

    If it’s short and sweet, (and has a good beat), we’ll dance to that too.


  • http://www.joe-perez.com/weblog.htm Joe Perez

    I also write both a blog and religion column, though my column isn’t *quite* so widely syndicated as yours. On a few occasions, I’ve re-worked material on my blog for use as a later column. I consider the blog a place for rough drafts and getting feedback, making mistakes, etc. My blog pieces tend to be long, then when I’ve repurposed them for a column I tend to cut. But that’s just the way I write. It sounds like you’re evolving a good pattern of repurposing that works for you, and that’s the nature of blogging–experimentalism.

  • http://www.tmatt.net Tmatt

    Actually, I hardly EVER write in first-person for Scripps Howard — two or three times a year at most. Yet in the blog almost everything is in first person. This makes me think that crossover will be rare, but not unheard of.

    Also, I associate journalism with attributed material based on INTERVIEWS. I associate blogging with commentary on published sources.

    So I guess I am saying that I am a reporter more than a commentator. This is one reason that I am now enjoying the sense of release of writing for the blog.

  • Randall King

    Terry…I cut my blog teeth on Andrew Sullivan and although I don’t always agree with his views, the mix of links plus commentary are what I think makes blogging unique. I still have high regard for straight reporting, and opinion journalism, and see them as distinct. But I think you’re hitting the right mix here, so keep it up.

  • http://markbyron.typepad.com/main/ Mark Byron

    Is a journalist’s blog the rough draft of the rough draft of history? You can kick around an idea, get feedback an nuance from your readers and if it gets in a form that fits a newspaper slot….

    Short or long, y’all are worth reading. Keep up the good work.

  • http://weblog.theviewfromthecore.com ELC

    Blog what you want to blog, how you want to blog it, when you want to blog it. Well, that’s what I do. :-)

  • William Calhoun

    I don’t know that much about the rules and culture of blogging, online journalism, etc. All I do know is that whatever you want to call what you’ve got here, it’s a winner. The emails from GetReligion are the first ones I jump to when I open my email program and I have yet to find anything you’ve written that isn’t informative, fascinating and intelligent. Don’t worry too much about analyzing what you do. Just keep doing it. Many thanks.

  • http://www.node707.com Melanie

    My experience as both blogger and reader is that the genre works best when you follow the things that interest you, and follow them at the length that works for your interest. That will hold my interest. You are doing a great job.