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The LA Times Sparks Blog Debate..

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Chris Vallance | 23:51 UK time, Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Blogs risk crowding out careful journalism opined Michael Skube in an LA Times opinion piece:

One gets the uneasy sense that the blogosphere is a potpourri of opinion and little more. The opinions are occasionally informed, often tiresomely cranky and never in doubt. Skepticism, restraint, a willingness to suspect judgment and to put oneself in the background -- these would not seem to be a blogger's trademarks..

That piece prompted a call from journalism professor and blogger Jay Rosen for Skube to retire. That hasn't happened but Rosen has now written an article in response that's also been published by the LA Times. As well as a rebuttle of Skube's argument it's an extensive overview of some of the achievements of bloggers and citizen journalists in recent years. Well worth a read.

Rosen's terms of reference are still those of traditional journalism, most of the examples are of bloggers that made headlines and broke news. While it's important to enumerate examples of news making by bloggers given the way the debate had been framed by Skube, it thereby understates the contribution of blogs in simply exposing us to different viewpoints. Blogs by serving soldiers, ambulance drivers or game wardens in the Congo are of value because they are first hand accounts of the often extraordinary nature of ordinary life. They're not polemical op-eds, nor are they likely to grab the front page, but they are of great human interest - as testified by the numbers scooped up by book publishers. Newspapers do human interest too, and the best blogs could happily supply a features section with years of content, but somehow in the blogs v journalism debate it's the colour supplement that always seems to get left on the tube.

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