If you were to say to me “Adam, old chap, what’s the toughest challenge you face in getting journalists to blog?”, two things would cross my mind. The first is that you have an incredibly mannered way of speaking, and good on you in this age of enforced casualness and linguistic laxity. The second would be that the single biggest issue I face can be summed up by the following equation:
blog = IT
Because I’m involved with blogging, I must be a member of the IT team. QED. Let me give you an example. Once, memorably, a journalist of senior years phoned me up for help with Movable Type. “Talk me through the problem,” I said.
“Would you like to take control of my screen?” she replied. Being a Windows-based company, our IS team often use a remote control thing (see how technical I am?) to deliver support. I’m a journalist, and I can’t do that. I told her as much, to her utter bewilderment. “But you’re in charge of blogging…” she stuttered.
And that’s the assumption I face with many journalistic teams when I go in to talk to them. Ah, here’s the guy from IT to tell us about blogging… Except, y’know, I don’t actually work for IT.
Consider this equation:
magazines = printing press
It’s clearly nonsensical. Nobody would sent an engineer to tell people how to produce magazines, and equally, my employer hasn’t chosen a techie to explain blogging to its journalists. I’m a journalist with well over a decade’s experience behind me, and any technical skills I have developed have been purely in the service of getting myself published, something I’ve been doing since I published a newspaper for the kids in my street when I was eight.
So, why do journalists have this attitude about blogging? Partially, I think many of my colleagues are luddites at heart. They yearn for the days of typewriters and hot metal and trilbies with press cards tucked into them, because that’s where the mythology of journalism is. Their hearts are as much in the printed product as they are in the act of journalism itself. Traditional online publishing is just about tolerable, because it looks like the journalism they know. Blogging has two strikes against it from the start: it’s technological, not printed, and it involves modifying the process of journalism.
And that, old bean, is the biggest problem I face.