There is a big difference between blogging and journalism and it's a distinction few except those of us in the business are able to make. In the simplest terms, the difference is this: Blogging has a point of view, journalism doesn't. What you're reading now, for instance, is a blog. What you read in The New York Times is (usually) journalism.
As someone who earned a master's degree in journalism and worked in the field for years, I'm well aware of the difference between what I did then and what I do now. So when people complain that we at The Stir are practicing "bad journalism," it always makes me giggle.
But it doesn't make me giggle when journalism actually does go awry, and recently the line between blogging and journalism has become even thinner it seems. Actual news articles are revealing biases within the body of stories that is marketed as journalism.
This morning, the Boston Herald had a story about a man who shot his wife. In it, they included her last words: "You can't even shoot right."
Implicit in this, of course, is the opinion that this nagging bitch of a wife somehow deserved to be shot. The first paragraph of the piece (the lede as it were) says that she "needled her husband." She may not have pulled the trigger herself, but clearly this Herald writer thinks she could have.
Walking away from the story, one might chuckle. Oh that poor old man was so badgered that he shot his wife. Sure, the Boston Herald is a tabloid and not the paper that draws the most educated readership, but this isn't the only recent example of that.
Even The New York Times, the hallowed bastion of journalism, "the paper of record," printed a story a couple weeks ago that all but blamed an 11-year-old gang rape victim for her own rape. In it, the reporter focused on the poor boys (RAPISTS!) whose lives would be ruined by this. It focused on what she was wearing and where her mother was through all this.
Never mind the fact that she was 11 and couldn't legally consent to sex. Never mind that she is the daughter of Mexican immigrants who were having massive financial difficulties and a mother who was severely depressed and possibly suicidal. A later article reveals these details and is much more balanced toward the truth, but it was too little, too late. What kind of journalist reports only the details that make it the victim's fault?
The fact is, right now we live in a world where people are getting their news in two distinct ways: through blogs and through journalism. The two are not and should not be the same thing. Tabloid journalism is nothing new, but as media changes, the lines are getting more and more blurred, which makes real journalism more important than ever.
If we can't trust The New York Times, who can we trust?
Do you know the difference between journalism and blogging?
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