Blogs as a challenge to journalism? Arguments for and against

Marcus Leaning (Trinity University College, UK)

This paper explores how blogs have been understood as a considerable challenge to orthodox journalism. The paper first examines a number of arguments that support this claim. Blogs are often conceptualized as offering a means by which the public sphere may be revitalized. In a similar way to how newsgroups and other preceding forms of computer-mediated communication were understood, blogs are credited with an enormous transformational potential. Central to such claims are three key arguments: blogs encourage civic participation and involvement, people can be re-empowered and civic culture revitalised; blogs revitalise politics and bring in a new level of accountability for politicians; blogs erode the influence and power of formal groups and existing power structures and challenge corporate media power. A number of critical challenges to these claims are examined: how they represent a singularly U.S. model of journalism; how they are overly influenced by commercial pressure; and how they encourage the ghettoisation of opinion – and consequently they do not seriously contribute to free debate in the way their advocates claim. It is proposed that blogs may have an effect but that this effect must be understood to be socially situated. Blogs must be understood to operate not as an alternative to mainstream, more traditional mass media but in concert with those forms.

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