Do bloggers GetReligion?

The other day I did something we don’t often do here at GetReligion: I critiqued a blog post.

The topic was hipster Christianity, and the commentary appeared on the book blog for The New Yorker, which was, coincidentally, riffing on material from a religious publication (Christianity Today). Neither religious media nor blogs are common targets for GetReligion. But they’re generally considered fair game.

This time around it prompted a comment from one of our most loyal readers, Jerry, which I thought deserved more than just an answer in the comments. Here is the pertinent part of Jerry’s comment:

I wonder about commenting on blog postings as you did here and Mollie did it recently. Given that a blog posting does not need to meet any journalistic standards or for that matter any standard of sentence construction or even spelling, I wonder about why any of you would take on a blogger except perhaps to laud someone who does a good job.

It’s easy for me to see where Jerry is coming from. I remember when I was working the Godbeat at my first paper and my editor asked me if I’d be interested in starting a religion blog. Not a chance. Why? Because I was a purist. Newsink only. Blogs were for hacks.

That was 2005 — and it was a painfully ignorant perspective even then.

Five years later, it would be just about impossible for me to make such a statement. During that time, I started The God Blog, which has received a few accolades, while remaining an upstanding print journalist. It’s become difficult to tell where the print reporter stops and the blogger steps i

Sorry for the self indulgence, but it’s the easiest way I know how to show that the world has turned. The reason 52 percent of bloggers consider themselves journalists: Well, a lot of them are.

I asked my colleagues for a few thoughts on why a good media critic can no longer ignore what writers — especially full-time journalists, especially those at major publications — are saying online. Here’s some of what we’re thinking.

First, there is a big difference between news blogs and opinion blogs. Like The God Blog, Book Bits is, largely, a news blog. It’s not Atlas Shrugged or Daily Kos. There is more subjectiveness to the writing than would appear in the metro section of any news paper; but that comes through in the voice, not in opinioneering.

Second, major media outlets have forever lost valuable newshole, and that is being compensated for online, often in the form of lots and lots of blog content. The Los Angeles Times and New York Times come to mind. L.A. Now, for example, is now where you have to go to find some local, developing stories. Don’t bother looking in the paper the next day — the story won’t be there.

Here’s Mike Sando, a reporter who covers the Seahawks, talking about that in sports reporting:

Here’s a recent example: The Flint, Mich., paper published a story about former Seahawks receiver Daryl Turner, who enjoyed some productive years in the 1980s before disappearing in a haze of drugs and alcohol. It wasn’t something we needed to chase for the paper, but I turned it into a quick blog item. There are numerous other examples. The blog allows more room to discuss (and sometimes debunk) rumors, too.

Sure blogs aren’t heavily edited (not that all news copy is), but they are still marked by reporting and analysis. If they’re not or if they spend too much time rumormongering as opposed to substantiating, then I probably don’t read them.

And, finally, GetReligion’s mission is to help journalists get religion. That means we’re looking to not only critique a 40-inch story in The Washington Post but also to comment on trends, technologies, information, etc. that would be of interest to working journalists, especially those who cover religion or topics that are linked to religion.

Obviously, we can’t comment on everything. This is, after all, the information age. But unless we GetReligionistas are venturing outside old media — to a reporter’s Twitter feed, for example — then we’re really not living up to our duty.

IMAGE: That’s a cropped version of a cartoon about God’s blog by one of my favorite editorial cartoonists.

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  • Jerry

    Since I inspired this post, I have to comment on it :-)

    First, that’s a great cartoon.

    It’s become difficult to tell where the print reporter stops and the blogger steps i

    That’s unintentional humor since part of the sentence was cut off. But it illustrates the point very nicely and it’s a good point. The CNN religion blog, for example, reads very much like news stories.

    Sure blogs aren’t heavily edited (not that all news copy is)

    That’s certainly true. I’ve seen some egregious typos in my local printed newspapers.

    So from your post, I derive the following guidelines that I assume you use to determine which blog to review:
    1. The writer must be a professional journalist.
    2. The blog will often be part of a mainstream media site or linked to one.
    3. The posting should be news oriented not opinion oriented.

    Did I capture the criteria correctly?

  • Brad A. Greenberg

    Yeah, Pat’s a pro.

    I think you identified the criteria well, but it’s still a bit too limiting. Those are my general guideposts, but i can foresee looser criteria if other factors were stronger.

    Thanks again for prompting this discussion.

  • kristy

    Great explanation of how you foresee opening things up to journalism outside of print. I do much more listening to my news than reading it. I particularly like hearing what the BBC and NPR have to say, then checking out the evening news on major networks. It gives me a better idea of the tone that’s being conveyed. (Much harder to remember precisely and quote from, though – no cut and paste feature)

  • Jerry

    Brad, my comment and your reply reminds me very strongly of a classic Alan Watt’s statement on “prickles and goo“. As a “gooey” person, I use the word “guidelines” is an approximate sense. You’re reply seems to assumed that I was using “guidelines” from a more sharp-edged perspective :-)

  • Brad A. Greenberg

    Indeed. I blame law school.

  • David Rupert

    I am a blogger. But I am not a journalist.
    Kind of funny how someone with an Internet account and a spell-checker can consider themselves a journalist.

    Blogs have their place — mine is to encourage people to live out their faith, using the “red letters”

    But telling “news” shouldnt be one of them. Something tells me, however, that those days of journalistic integrity are gone.
    David,, “Salt and Light”

  • Brad A. Greenberg

    David: You say blogs should be in the news business, but you don’t explain why you think this or respond to the points made in this blog post.