Some interesting nuggets from the Reuters event: Halley Suitt, who blogs at Halley's Comment (and in many other places) says RSS is one key to levelling the playing field with regard to blogs and the mainstream media. Feed aggregators can present information from established MSM outlets along with posts from personal blogs. Guess what? They look the same.
John Fund, who writes a column for OpinionJournal.com, said many of the same rules apply to bloggers that apply to journalists and that the values of "accuracy, fairness, fair play and responding to criticism rather than ignoring it" are critical to being taken seriously in either arena.
Steven Baker, a writer at BusinessWeek, seemed to have some interesting thoughts about parallels between the blog world and the world of mainstream journalism. He thinks bloggers and journalists alike can be "respected or not respected according to how they act, and I think that applies to both worlds." In other words, reputation is key. I get the feeling he believes what I believe - that whether you're a journalist or a blogger doesn't matter. What matters is your credibility. Suitt talked a bit about how blog voices are different from MSM voices. She said she often covers current events and issues while applying a personal lens (just like most bloggers do). "I might write about social security and my headline might be 'Is my mom going to eat cat food?'" She later pointed out that her readers at her own blog are "going to want entertainment from me as well as facts."
I thought the first dust-up of the evening might come about when the panel was discussing the need for journalists to maintain objectivity and speak in the third person rather than the first person. Someone on the panel referred to this as a veneer of objectivity." At this point, Jeff Jarvis jumped in and said, "Too often it's just a veneer." I thought that would get a stronger reaction, but people on the panel and in the audience seemed to agree.
Bryan Keffer, assistant managing editori of CJR Daily, discussed how the impact of blogging is largely driven by the tools and not the writing style. "What is novel here is the technology and not the voice," he said, noting that pundits certainly existed in the mainstream media before they existed in the blogosphere.
Here's another interesting thing Fund brought up - He pointed out one way that an individual blogger may be at a disadvantage publishing as an individual rather than with an organization behind him. "There are some things that are better done in the collective," he said, noting that it often requires having an objective member of a news organization step in during the reporting process to let a writer know when they've gone too far or stepped over the line.
There was an interesting exchange concerning the comparative abilities of mainsteam journalists and bloggers to avoid accountability for what they publish. John Fund related an anecdote about how a blogger published some untrue things about him stealing access to a laptop at an event. The blogger was later proved wrong, but he never corrected what he published. Evidently, the story took off, because the original poster had 546 responses in comments.
"If you choose to be an individual blogger, you can escape all responsibility and accountability," Fund said.
Suitt was quick to point out that bloggers tend to refute untrue facts. "If there's an error in a blog very often people will show up to say 'this isn't true.'" she said.
A bit later, Jeff Jarvis brough up an interesting point about how blogging has taken off in foreign countries not typically known for their press freedom, mentioning growing blogging communities in Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Ukraine. "This is a tool where people can speak where they couldn't speak," he said.
Fund mentioned that most bloggers don't make their primary paycheck from blogging, whereas journalists tend to rely on the money they make from writing as a primary source of income. He suggested this might keep journalists more honest. "Even if I want to slander...everyone in sight, I still want to keep my paycheck," he said.
Jarvis was quick to point out, however, that "people are earning real money" at blogging.
I'll post some additional stuff on this later.