A blogger is a publisher of or contributor to a weblog. Weblogs are online publications that typically present contents in inverse chronological order, time-stamped, and with hyperlinks pointing at original sources online that bloggers refer to. Usually weblogs are conversational, so that readers’ comments appear along with the bloggers’ own postings.
Bloggers emerged in large numbers during the early 2000s, along with easy-to-use, often free weblog publishing software. The entirety of all weblogs is called the blogosphere. Technorati, a website providing news about the phenomenon, estimates that about 50 million blogs existed on computer networks worldwide as of August 2006 (Sifry 2006). Most bloggers have nothing to do with journalism; their weblogs represent personal online literary forms without aiming to deliver current affairs information of public interest. However, many bloggers operate close to or within journalism, processing and publishing information in a manner that resembles journalistic routines. Bloggers have shaped online journalism and sparked academic and professional debates about changing definitions of journalist and journalism.
From the perspective of journalism, bloggers fall into four categories on a continuum which illustrates their relationship with institutional media and professional journalism: citizen, audience, journalist, and media bloggers. Citizen bloggers are publishers of weblogs who operate outside of media companies. These bloggers may not intend to, or even prefer not to, produce journalism, but when publishing current affairs information they may “commit journalism” (Lasica 2002). Citizen bloggers may adopt roles as media commentators, specialized writers, or amateur reporters. Some bloggers monitor professional journalists, exposing on so-called watchblogs the deficiencies in journalists’ work. Sometimes eyewitnesses turn into occasional citizen reporters by publishing on blogs first-hand information of news events. More sustained journalism can be found in blogs that experts maintain to cover issues in their own fields, or in community blogs that neighborhood amateur reporters publish to cover everyday life in their milieus. Citizen bloggers have also become a source of story ideas for professional journalists.
Audience bloggers contribute to weblogs that media organizations provide either within or attached to their core publications. The audience contributions may appear closely linked to newsroom reports, but most are located in areas separate from newsroom contents. Gathering communities of audience bloggers may strengthen user loyalty to an online publication, resulting in improved regard for the media brand name. Audience bloggers may also generate a mutually beneficial dialogue between the newsroom and the audience, enhancing the quality of journalism by increasing the transparency of the reporting process.
Journalist bloggers are professionals who publish journalistic weblogs outside their home media institutions. The blogosphere lures them in by promising uncontrolled self-publishing space to deal with and comment on issues from viewpoints and in a style that would not fit into the journalists’ home institution. Some media companies forbid blogging by employees even outside working hours, but most professional journalists are free to blog without coming into conflict with their employers. In another variation, some journalists use blogs to showcase their work. These bloggers may be aspirants seeking to work in journalism or may be seasoned freelance professionals.
Media bloggers are also professional journalists, but they contribute to weblogs that their media employer maintains related to its online publication. Media bloggers may not adhere to as strict a journalistic code as they do in news writing. While allowing a more personal approach, the employer nevertheless applies some editorial judgment to the media blogger’s output. Media bloggers may detest some characteristics of weblogs, such as the freedom of readers to comment on blog postings. Some media bloggers cover special events for their publications, such as elections or big sports events. They may write blog entries to publish more personal or less newsworthy musings about the event. Other media bloggers maintain blogs to comment and reflect on developments in their beats. Still others use the conversational feature of weblogs to share news ideas with readers before writing an article, drawing from the knowledge of their audience. Some newsrooms even publish notes from editorial meetings on a blog and engage readers in conversations about news decisions.
Bloggers may be a harbinger of more diverse and democratic communication, which online publishing technology can enable, as first predicted when the world wide web emerged in the mid-1990s (Castells 1996). Bloggers, along with podcasters, wiki-publishers, and other social media actors, challenge the institutional media and the journalism profession by offering competing or complementing information about news events and issues. The participatory features in blogging also highlight the lack of personal contact between conventional journalists and their audiences. The activity of bloggers may also question professional journalists’ ownership of journalism by demonstrating that others can also deliver relevant current affairs information to wide audiences. Within established journalism, bloggers have created a new content genre that has rapidly become a customary element in the array of online publications.
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