Uses and Perceptions of Blogs: A Report on Professional Journalists and Journalism Educators

Article excerpt

As journalism educators prepare their students to succeed professionally, whether professional journalists and educators see eye-to-eye on emerging trends that influence current journalism practice is worth examining. A national online survey of journalism professionals and educators found that professionals use blogs significantly more than educators. Educators had similar views of blogs, but professional journalists' uses and perceptions of blogs varied depending on type of organization they worked for and occupational position in their news organizations. Educators are quick to catch on to national trends in journalism even though they do not routinely use blogs, as they are trained to assess the impact of critical trends in the discipline.

The news industry has experienced exponential growth of online news publications with the adoption of the Internet as a strategic medium for news delivery.1 The Internet's interactive nature allows news to be delivered through a converged platform of multimodal and multidirectional capabilities, challenging the way journalists deliver news and how the audience receives it.2

Most recently, the emergence of blogs has sparked debate about "who is a journalist and what journalism is."3 Prominent journalists have started blogs, and Web sites of well-known media outlets have adopted blogs onto their news sites.4 In the process, blogs have compelled traditional journalists to change the way they deliver news.5

Blogs have been described as a new form of communication that shifts mainstream control of information to the audience. Emergent technology allows bloggers to express views and blog readers to engage in meaningful conversation, thus empowering news audiences to become information providers.6 Some describe blogs as an emancipatory tool for communication with the transformative potential of challenging traditional hegemonic notions of information delivery.7

Basic opinion surveys of journalists regarding blogs have begun,8 yet empirical research assessing how journalism professionals use blogs and how they evaluate the importance of blogs is lacking. In addition, how journalism educators, who nurture the next generation of journalists, use and perceive blogs has not been examined. With the changing media climate, it is, thus, worthwhile to examine how these key individuals adopt blogs and perceive their influence on journalism today. The current study aims to compare journalism professionals' and journalism educators' uses and perceptions of blogs. Additionally, this study seeks to identify conditions associated with blog uses and perceptions among professional journalists and journalism educators.

Technology and the Journalism Profession

Technology has always played a critical role in journalism. Various technological transformations, from Gutenberg's printing press and the development of photography to radio and television, have advanced it. At the same time, these technologies also challenged existing journalism conventions.9 The Internet is only the latest to challenge the way journalists deliver news and how the audience receives it. Particularly, blogs, an easy-to-use Web publishing tool, allow users without knowledge of HTML to create and update a Web site within minutes. Accordingly, millions of people have created their own personal blogs to keep a journal about the events revolving around their lives and to have their reflections recorded.10 Many bloggers are participating in some form of amateur journalism, challenging the role(s) of traditional journalists.11 These trends are significant to journalists as blogs have been characterized as being socially interactive and community-like in nature.12 They potentially allow bloggers to express opinions and blog readers to engage in meaningful conversations. For all of these reasons, blogs are described as an emancipatory challenge to one-way communication.

Perhaps, not surprisingly, mainstream news media reporters and editors have often disregarded blogging because of its lack of credibility, for failing to be objective, and for the lack of journalistic training of bloggers. …