Archive | August, 2009

Relevant 21st Century News – in a blog

31 Aug
I was recently told, rather scathingly, “blogs don’t work as news, they are of the writers opinion”. I think on a surface level that’s fairly reasonable – clearly blogs like mine are NOT news! – but I believe that there are plenty of exceptions – blogs which are indeed news. In order to explore this earlier, I asked an expert in news journalism, Beth Cooper, what she thought.
Q. First of all, what exactly is “news”?
A. News is hard to define, so let’s look at it briefly from a few perspectives.
1. Traditionally, news is divided into “soft” and “hard” news.
Hard news is serious, factual, relevant and time-based. It’s starts as a breaking story – something your readers didn’t know and, presumably, want to know about. It happened today, or just recently; it’s therefore current. An example : an aneroplane crash that resulted in 200 missing people.
Soft news is not necessarily time-based and it’s not terribly important – or serious – information. It’s something your readers might want to know about, but it’s most relevant for its entertainment value. An example : Katie Holmes’s new hairstyle.
2. Traditionalists will also tell you that news is objective and told in third person. It’s NOT a personal opinion. It’s simply a reporting of facts.
3. However, with the advent of social networking – Twitter, Facebook – and blogs, news has become more personal again. It’s come full circle ala the Victorianesque “personal account” of a great disaster, or a negative (or positive) slant on a current event.
News CAN be objective, fact-based, and told in third person. But it can also be slanted and bursting with opinionated comments…and still present newsy information that readers want to know.
Q.  Are news journalists impartial? (and should they be?)
A. We try to be, but any reader (or reporter) worth her salt will know that it all depends on the vehicle of publication and the government of the day. Read two different newspapers in America on the same morning and you’ll know that this is true.
Q. If a blog contains information never before seen – such as
is that news?
A. Yes, in my opinion, it is.
Q. If a site is hosted on wordpress or blogspot, does that immediately make it a blog?
A.Traditionally, yes. But then, what is a blog? Some blogs are virtual newspapers. I know people who turn to particular blogs to read with their morning coffee, rather than the usual broadsheet newspaper.
Q. Would you classify any of these as containing news?
A. I’ve chosen to look at the headlines only, in order to form a quick opinion. The first is more “opinion editorial”, but does contain newsy information. The second – yes, definitely news…but how many readers will be interested? The third – opinion editorial again, but very relevant. So the third is a super example of relevant, 21st century news.
So, in my humble opinion, Beth agrees with me and not the scathing woman – yay! In a world where everything is changing, news needs to change too – and we need to be a little more open-minded about it.
Beth Cooper is a freelance journalist with a background in newspapers. A copywriter, feature writer and editor on several newspapers, magazines and websites, she tutors hard news journalism and magazine journalism at SA Writers College (www.sawriterscollege.co.za)

I was recently told, rather scathingly, “blogs don’t work as news, they are of the writers opinion”. I think on a surface level that’s fairly reasonable – clearly blogs like mine are NOT news! – but I believe that there are plenty of exceptions – blogs which are indeed news. In order to explore this earlier, I asked an expert in news journalism, Beth Cooper, what she thought.

Q. First of all, what exactly is “news”?

A. News is hard to define, so let’s look at it briefly from a few perspectives.

1. Traditionally, news is divided into “soft” and “hard” news.

Hard news is serious, factual, relevant and time-based. It’s starts as a breaking story – something your readers didn’t know and, presumably, want to know about. It happened today, or just recently; it’s therefore current. An example : an aneroplane crash that resulted in 200 missing people.

Soft news is not necessarily time-based and it’s not terribly important – or serious – information. It’s something your readers might want to know about, but it’s most relevant for its entertainment value. An example : Katie Holmes’s new hairstyle.

2. Traditionalists will also tell you that news is objective and told in third person. It’s NOT a personal opinion. It’s simply a reporting of facts.

3. However, with the advent of social networking – Twitter, Facebook – and blogs, news has become more personal again. It’s come full circle ala the Victorianesque “personal account” of a great disaster, or a negative (or positive) slant on a current event.

News CAN be objective, fact-based, and told in third person. But it can also be slanted and bursting with opinionated comments…and still present newsy information that readers want to know.

Q.  Are news journalists impartial? (and should they be?)

A. We try to be, but any reader (or reporter) worth her salt will know that it all depends on the vehicle of publication and the government of the day. Read two different newspapers in America on the same morning and you’ll know that this is true.

Q. If a blog contains information never before seen – such as Google’s, is that news?

A. Yes, in my opinion, it is.

Q. If a site is hosted on wordpress or blogspot, does that immediately make it a blog?

A.Traditionally, yes. But then, what is a blog? Some blogs are virtual newspapers. I know people who turn to particular blogs to read with their morning coffee, rather than the usual broadsheet newspaper.

Q. Would you classify any of these as containing news?

Bankelele

Orenotes

Techcrunch

A. I’ve chosen to look at the headlines only, in order to form a quick opinion. The first is more “opinion editorial”, but does contain newsy information. The second – yes, definitely news…but how many readers will be interested? The third – opinion editorial again, but very relevant. So the third is a super example of relevant, 21st century news.

Conclusion

So, in my humble opinion, Beth agrees with me and not the scathing woman – yay! In a world where everything is changing, news needs to change too – and we need to be a little more open-minded about it.

Beth Cooper is a freelance journalist with a background in newspapers. A copywriter, feature writer and editor on several newspapers, magazines and websites, she tutors hard news journalism and magazine journalism at SA Writers College.