Don't be deluded: a blog does not a journalist make

Lots of people seem to think that all journalists should be blogging. I'm not so sure.

According to Guardian Unlimited's assistant editor, Neil McIntosh, freelance writers looking to strengthen their portfolio should be blogging. McIntosh told Journalism.co.uk back in May that blogs can "make" a journalist's name, in some areas, far more than their printed work ever could.

More recently, Graham Holliday, the journalist behind ScooptWords, the online syndication agency for blog content, argued that "bloggers be journalists, journalists be bloggers".

And in a link provided by Holliday in his blog, the Canadian writer Spencer Critchley muses: "Blogs, podcasts and e-newsletters make it easy for anyone to be a journalist."

While Critchley advises in his top 10 journalism tips for bloggers (at number 10) that you should "check your facts", there isn't a single nod to the dangers of saying something you may get hammered for.

So what can aspiring journalists learn from blogging? Meeting deadlines? Possibly. Interview skills or news sense? I think not.

Am I missing the point entirely? Why am I so irritated by so much passing for "incisive comment" in the blogosphere?

Left alone, or amid a coterie of friends adding their sycophantic comments, isn't a blogger who is also a wannabe reporter given a false picture of how skilful a writer they are? Isn't the praise heaped on them by their mates setting them up for a fall? Like the delusional X Factor reject found sobbing in the corridor, it's going to be an unwelcome surprise when someone with experience in their chosen field tells them they have a long way to go.

Who's telling these people that their ramblings are worth reading? Have they never heard of apostrophes? Don't they know that three capital letters in a sentence may be three too many? We have all heard of "never mind the grammar, tell the story" — but some of this stuff is ridiculous.

And that's just the journalism students. Surely all this tinkering with blogging could be lulling them into a false sense of security.

Once out of their "blog roll", they could find themselves like a fish out of water. Just because they know what Technorati is doesn't mean they can find a story, let alone know what to actually do with it.

"It's not all about the writing," someone senior will tell them, and they just won't get it. How will they ever be able to appreciate, as they move on in their careers, that the subs who insist they should go back and clarify a few points, are talking sense?

And what on earth will they make of a news editor who barks: "Crap intro"? After all, their brother thought something similar on their blog was "cool".

Of course, I don't hate all blogs. Hell, I'm paid to blog by Shiny Media and clog up my own tiny corner of cyberspace with a company blog about our fledgling agency. I do it under the cover of darkness when my kids are asleep. Beats vacuuming.

And even an idiot like me can see that blogs giving a voice to the vulnerable or oppressed are to be treasured. But we're not all John Pilger are we? We're not all Russell Brand (thank God) and we're not all Belle de Jour. So why do so many wannabe writers seek to be oh-so-hard-hitting, oh-so-amusing or oh-so-provocative? Do they really think we care that they think President Bush is a knob?

Wouldn't they still be better off heading down to their local paper for some work experience where they'll be asked to produce copy worthy of inclusion in a publication that people will actually read?

That will also allow them to learn about pesky things like libel, contempt and news sense. The subs will get hold of their copy, after the reporters have had a go at it, and tell them what other 28 questions need answering — such as "how do you spell the names properly?"

You just don't get that with discussing the latest episode of Doctor Who in your own personal webspace. It may not be as enjoyable as pontificating on the latest redesign of their favourite broadsheet paper, or waxing lyrical about the latest MP3 player, but done properly, work experience could one day help them pay their bills earning a living in journalism.

And it will bring them into contact with people instead of just a computer keyboard. Real people with real stories to tell, not just opinions to throw around. How on earth will they cope?

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