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Journalism In The Days Of Web 2.0

From the annals of blogging

— Look up “blog” on Dictionary.com and it’s defined as a journal on the Internet that the public gets to read. But blogs have taken on other meanings as they’ve become a growing part of print journalism.

Today, the most meaningful difference between a blog and conventional reporting is interactivity.

When you write a blog you invite readers to leave comments. Their comments become a big part of the story, if not the whole story. A blog is kind of like a radio talk show that gets lots of calls.

Blogs are also part of this mega-thing we call Web 2.0, in which amateurs with too much time on their hands are using the web as a platform to create software, share information and write encyclopedias. Think Twitter and Wikipedia… to name two of many.

The influence of Web 2.0 on journalism is bound to expand. I just wonder if it’s a good thing.

When I blog on a subject, anyone with an Internet account can post a comment. There is no screening. If someone makes a statement of "fact" I typically have no idea whether it's true or not, and I don't know who’s making the statement. Usually, a person’s web I.D. is some nonsensical nickname.

If journalism requires accuracy, attribution and editorial judgment – Web 2.0 falls short.

Case in point.

Less than a month ago, On-Ramp received an anonymous comment that accused one of my sources of unsavory behavior. Was it false? Was it true? Was it defamatory? We didn’t know. But KPBS editors chose to leave the comment up. If we took it down, did that mean we had to zap all comments of questionable veracity?

When I was a call-in talk radio host, we at least had a call screener who would weed out some of the wackos. We also had the sound of the caller’s voice, which could ultimately be used to identify the person. It wasn’t a lot of accountability but it was something.

Old-school journalists like me view this Web 2.0 trend with anxiety. But it looks more and more like an irresistible force, and the editors and publishers who control what’s printed or posted are looking more and more like a perishing aristocracy.

My favorite futurist David Brin once said that the 20th Century was the age of the professional, but the 21st century will be the age of the amateur. Through blogging and it’s many social-media permutations, amateurs seem to be taking over journalism. So maybe Brin is right. In the end, I just hope there’s still someone to sign my paycheck.

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