What’s next: J-schools offering a master’s degree in blogging?

That might be a good idea. According to a new study conducted by PR Newswire/Canada Newswire and PRWeek, 52 per cent of bloggers now view themselves as journalists. This is up from about 33 per cent in 2009.

Another shift in the PR/media landscape.  And it opens the door to many questions.

Consider the definition of journalism from The Free Dictionary:

‘1. The collecting, writing, editing, and presenting of news or news articles in newspapers and magazines and in radio and television broadcasts.

2. Material written for publication in a newspaper or magazine or for broadcast.

3. The style of writing characteristic of material in newspapers and magazines, consisting of direct presentation of facts or occurrences with little attempt at analysis or interpretation.

4. Newspapers and magazines.

5. An academic course training students in journalism.’

There’s no allusion to blogs or bloggers anywhere. Beyond that, a profession (i.e. journalism) has traditionally referred to a job that required training and provided remuneration. Or to put it another way, it’s something many parents want their kids to do. And you don’t hear too many moms and dads extolling the virtues of blogging as a career choice (at least not yet).

Then there’s the matter of education. If bloggers are to become the next generation of journalists – and I think there’s great potential in that – we need to develop programs that help provide some academic training; perhaps offering a combination of courses in writing, editing, publishing, research and ethics. Some institutions are starting to do this. But most bloggers learn their craft on the job.

From a PR perspective, we seem to be relying on media relations tactics to set the framework for interactions with bloggers. But is this the best way to go about it? Or do we need to re-think the way we identify and engage them?

I think we do. For one thing, the days of the canned pitch are thankfully almost behind us. But is ‘pitching’ even the best way to reach bloggers? How can we help ensure their stories are balanced/credible and not just cut and paste versions of our news releases?  Will PR need to focus more on the public good and, if so, how will that affect our compensation model?

There’s much to consider. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

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4 thoughts on “What’s next: J-schools offering a master’s degree in blogging?

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention A Master's in blogging? What do you think? (new blog post) -- Topsy.com

  2. The change in landscape IS exciting.
    Reaching bloggers?
    Easy. Join the conversation.
    I think the only real difference between blogging and traditional media is the two-way street bloggers travel on. Journos tell stories. Bloggers share them. Good communicators do both. A flat PR pitch is going to be disregarded by a budding, competent blogger the same way it would a reputed journalist. A good conversation, though, is hard to ignore.
    How do we ensure credibility?
    Trust our instincts and do the research. This is the stuff of any profession giving substance to facts. IE: PR, blogging, journalism. The ease of the Internet is no excuse for not thinking critically.
    More public good?
    Absolutely. Improving our environment is attractive, non?
    Figuring out a compensation model to match is a curious challenge. Though quality work always draws quality attention.

    I think a Master’s in blogging is great fodder for debate and it may even give some weight to various ‘expert’ or ‘guru’ claims. But things move so fast, by the time the program is in place and graduates have the chance to implement their skills, ‘blogging’ may have an entirely new definition.

  3. I agree with Ben that the changing landscape is exciting- but it also brings a great deal of discomfort. I guess that is why they call it ‘disruptive’ technology.

    However, it is far too simplistic to say that traditional journalism was all one way – even in the pre-internet days.

    Then you had to get off your ass and get into whatever community was at the centre of a story. You had to knock doors (a lot of doors), visits shops, schools and churches and generall tramps the streets.

    You had to spend inordinate amounts of time (mostly out of working hours) cultivating contacts with councillors, cops, political movers and shakers and any other influencers who might be able to throw you the odd line – or confirm the odd tip.

    You had to sit in the front room with the recently bereaved; listen stoically to ravers and agenda-led tub-thumpers and report them fairly regardless of how divergent your own views were from theirs.

    Most days involved a relentless battle with faceless bureacracy. Civil servants, petty officials, and other gatekeepers intent on stonewalling requests for information.

    Much time was spent sifting through meaningless or endlessly dull court cases, council meetings, tribunals, inquiries and hearings – unable to switch off because you knew you needed only a single nugget to humanise the story and make it relevant.

    We were held to account by libel and slander legislation (in Scotland, covered by the single law of defamation). UK journalsits are also governed by the Contempt of Court Act, which seriously restricts what can be reported when criminal proceedings commence in seriious cases, to ensure the accused gets a fair trial.

    Breaches were a massive deal, handled extremely seriously by the courts.

    Newspapers – which were and for me still are the cradle of excellent journalism – were populated at every level by people intent on ensuring balance and accuracy. To make a mistake as a young reporter was acceptable. To make the same mistake more than once was an exercise in professional humiliation.

    As for the notion that this was all one way? It is awfully convenient for those who weren’t involved in journalism pre-internet to assume that was the case.

    In fact, everyone in your patch knew you and how to get you. Your stories were bylined. Calls came in regularly. You would routinely be accosted and challenged in court buildings on doorsteps and even on nights out.

    As well as learning law, local government and all the other theory behind journalism you HAD to learn shorthand (in Scotland, you still can’t use any type of recording device in court or in tribunals and public inquiries”.

    I realise I may now sound curmudgeonly. I hope the reality is that I’m not.

    I know journalism is changing and have willingly embraced all that new tech and social media has to offer. I also blog regularly. And I can say one thing with confidence:

    Journalism is a big, difficult, complex and highly-accountable profession. Blogging, by comparison, is a pale imitation.

    I have no problem whatsoever with recognising a new subset of writers, opinion-formers, influencers and even occasion story-breakers – called bloggers. They are as much a part of our media landscape now as the BBC or The Times.

    But blanket describing blogging as journalism is like calling a DIY trepanner a neurosurgon – or akin to letting an enthusiastic amateur auto mechanic under the hood of a NASA Shuttle to tweak it for take-off.

    • Thanks to both of you for your perspective and thoughts. It feels like the whole notion of professionalism is being reexamined. Meanwhile we’re going along, watching, testing, adapting to the changes and waiting for to see what evolves from the double helix that journalism and blogging have become.

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