Reaction: Reuters Blogging Panel

First off, let me say thanks to Sophie Brendel over at Reuters. She went out of her way to accommodate my request for a LAN connection so I could blog live from the panel. She's great and went out of her way to make me feel welcome. Secondly, let me say that the LiveBlogging thing didn't work out as well as I would have liked. One thing I didn't realize was that in my journalism days, I'd have plenty of time to snag quotes and make tape recordings and then come back to my computer and think about things for a bit before I started to write my lede and write a compelling story. It's very difficult to sit at an event like this and try to write something meaningful while key quotes are whizzing by.

That said, I've had a few minutes on the train and on my walk over to the office to think about what I just witnessed. In many ways, the panel discussion was very surprising to me. I expected that the mainstream journalists in the room wouldn't "get" blogging, but by the end of the event, I got the impression that most of the journalists in the room understood a lot more about blogging than I thought they would.

Having said that, I definitely got the impression that quite a few people in the room were journalists who, in one way or another, resented bloggers on their turf. I wouldn't say it was a jealousy thing, but rather an acknowledgement that journalists have played by an established set of rules for a long time. Now, here comes a bunch of "citizen journalists" who may or may not play by those same rules. I can understand the concern and even a bit of resentment. For me, the most interesting parts of the panel centered around identifying real problems that concern the blogosphere that I hadn't considered before. For instance, John Fund talked a bit about how sometimes, a big benefit of working for a news organization is that objective reporters and editors can step in when they believe that an individual journalist has stepped over the line ethically or through editorializing. I hadn't considered that before. And in thinking about it further, I came to realize that the blogosphere itself could one day serve as that check on individual bloggers. As blogging becomes more popular, not just in terms of the number of bloggers involved, but insofar as the number of people critiquing ideas and stories increases, mechanisms like comments and trackbacks will help keep individual bloggers in line from an ethics perspective.

I also particularly liked the comments Jeff Jarvis made about blogging taking off in foreign countries that have greater restrictions on political speech than the U.S. does. He mentioned Iranian, Saudi and Ukrainian bloggers conversing about their political systems, with bloggers seemingly cropping up overnight to fill the vacuum in those places insofar as political speech is concerned. I don't think anyone in the room would disagree with the notion that this is a good thing.

To be honest, I expected some knockdown dragouts at this panel, given the friction between bloggers and journalists in the recent past. But it was a largely civil discussion. I think the closest it got to the line was a minor dust-up over the circumstances of the Eason Jordan case. Things got a bit heated for a minute or two between panelist Bryan Keefer and someone in the audience. Let's just say there was some disagreement over the true impact of what happened there.

One other thing - I really liked Halley Suitt's comments on what her various audiences expected of her as she blogged in different online publications. She mentioned that people who read "Halley's Comment" expect to be entertained by her comments and she'll write in a different voice about topics ranging from sex to politics to her son. Compare this to some of the writing she does for Tom Peters' site and the voice and expectation of the audience is completely different. I think that's one of the most interesting dynamics of blogging and I want to give that some more thought over the next few days. After all, I'm in much the same boat with regard to many of the things I write. My "Online Spin" voice is completely distinct from my voice, which is worlds away from what I write in newspaper columns, guest blogging gigs and other public forums. I think this demonstrates that different audiences can have different expectations of the same writer in different situations and venues. And when you think about how that plays in a world where people are expecting more transparency from journalists and writers, maybe it doesn't hurt to be able to write in a voice on your own personal blog that's more frank and human than business-oriented or hardcore news writing. I think it helps transparency along by showing readers that the writers they follow are real human beings.

Anyway, I loved the event and thank Reuters for putting it on. I have but one regret - once again, I was at an event where Jeff Jarvis was speaking and I didn't come up and introduce myself to him. My bad. I kind of had to rush out at the end of the event so I could come back to the office and post my thoughts.