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Saturday, April 26, 2003  

Reporter and blogger: Tales of two hats

Maureen Ryan, a Chicago Tribune reporter, has delved into the edgy relationship between print and broadcast journalists and bloggers. She suggests mainstream journalism doesn't know what to do with the interlopers, especially when they among its own ranks.

First she observes the high points and low points of warblogging.

Many people turned to the Web for war reports and analysis and found some of the best work available online was being done by thoughtful bloggers who seemingly updated their sites with fresh news and commentary every 15 seconds or so.

It was a shock to the tight-knit blogging community when two respected blogs written by frontline reporters for CNN and Time magazine were shut down by the journalists' employers, and when another hugely popular war blog was found to have lifted several [sic] postings from another source.

CNN reporter Kevin Sites had his blog shut down by the brass at CNN. Time reporter Joshua Kucera suffered the same fate. Though the two are not at liberty to say so, I don't believe they had much bargaining power with their employers. As necessary as journalists are to news operations, they tend to be the most expendable of the resources involved.

A CNN spokeswoman said Sites' bosses wanted him to concentrate on his TV reporting, while a Time spokesman wouldn't comment on the assertion by freelancer Joshua Kucera that his editors "demanded" that he shut down his blog, The Other Side (www.serendipit-e.com/otherside), which featured the kind of thoughtful, personal diary entries that rarely make it into mainstream newsmagazines. "They pay the bills, so what can I do," said Kucera in one of his last posts (Kucera declined to comment for this story).

Josh Marshall, who, like me, knows both sides of the fence, is more expansive.

"These organizations are just risk averse," says Joshua Micah Marshall, whose 2-year-old blog TalkingPointsMemo.com is a daily stop for more than 20,000 political junkies. "What good does it do them to have someone they are identified with saying things that they can't control, that by the nature of the medium are going to be provocative?"

When I was a reporter, one of the newspapers I worked for insisted on journalists giving a portion of any freelance writing fees they earned to the it. Is it any wonder former Washington Post reporter Jill Nelson called her memoir Volunteer Slavery? The corporate types in media do often think they own reporters, or at least anything reporters produce.

Ryan also discusses traditional media and blog relationships that seem to be going well, such as the one between Dan Gillmor and the San Jose Mercury. However, Gillmor's web log is basically a newspaper technology column written in blog form. It does not give the brass any cause to be nervous. Other bloggers with corporate connections tend to be defenders of the status quo, such as Glenn Reynolds and Mickey Kaus. As such, they are not likely to call into question anything that matters enough to offend their bosses.

I expect the relationship between mainstream media and bloggers to remain fraught with tension. About half the reporters I know who are currently bloggers have chosen to keep their web logs secret from their employers and, sometimes, their employment secret from the blogosphere. In doing so, they are able to wear the appropriate hat at the appropriate time without being subjected to trouble by either group. I would probably do the same thing.

The Agonist watch

The other major blogging episode alluded to in Ryan's story is that of Sean-Paul Kelley, who was caught plagiarizing from the intelligence information service Statfor. Currently, the Agonist is ranked thirty-third among blogs by Truth Laid Bear. He has fallen from among the top bloggers. The reasons for that are likely mixed, including less interest in the invasion of Iraq now that most of the shooting is over and the scandal.

12:07 AM