Blogging & Journalism; Form & Function

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Mr John Bethune is clearly a man of excellent taste and discernment:

…let me state for the record that Tinworth is one of my favorite and most respected bloggers.

(Flattery will, at the very least, get you linked.) He does, though, feel the need to expand on something I said in an offhand tweet:

A blog, Tinworth said, is a container, not an activity. As he put it elsewhere on Twitter, Marr’s criticism of blogs as fine things for certain purposes but inadequate to the task of journalism is like saying that “magazines are fantastic, but won’t replace journalism.”

That’s a pretty good summary of what I said on Twitter. I think Marr was making a significant category error in the way that he was comparing journalism and blogging – but then I also think his comments become a lot more explicable if you put the words “certain high-profile political” in front of the word “bloggers”, because I’m fairly sure that’s what he was actually talking about.

Bethune has other fish to fry, though:

However, to dwell for a moment on the metaphor of container vs. content,  can we really say that the blog format doesn’t influence its content? Would we say that blogging and other forms of social media have not in fact altered the practice of journalism? Or that journalism as we knew it a decade ago can simply be ported into social media without undergoing some degree of transformation?

To which I reply, with wit, sophistication and verve:

Well, duh.

In publishing, containers almost always influence form. Look at a feature or a piece of news in a tabloid newspaper as compared to a broadsheet. Sure, they’re performing the same basic function, but the expression is radically different. And that’s exactly as it should be.

Bethune has hit the nail straight on the head with his post: the most common category error I see around blogging and journalism is hacks shoving straight inverted pyramid, 350 word news stories (or opinion pieces) into a blog and calling it blogging. And, to anyone who reads blogs regularly, that looks much like a News of the World sex scandal on page 5 of The Guardian: jarring, disconcerting and utterly, utterly wrong for the audience.

So, journalists, when you open your blog platform in a browser, remember that:

Readers expect more immediacy, more transparency, more injection of the self, and more interactivity in their news content.

Otherwise, you’re going to look like a moron. And, of the many fine attributes in Andrew Marr you could imitate, his ability to look stupid while engaging in modern publishing isn’t the one you should be aiming for.

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.