So news breaks that one of the web’s most famous bloggers, Microsoft’s Robert Scoble, is leaving the company to go to a start-up. The ‘blogosphere’ shudders at the news.
Of course before he goes he writes a blog telling fellow bloggers that they should call the source directly before they write a story. “Bloggers rarely call before writing. It’s something I hope we can change. Call before running the story. It’s what great journalists do.”
But can we really afford to get to a stage where every blogger in the world calls the source for a quote?
Imagine this after an event like 9/11. There were thousands of blogs written about it, but New York’s mayor, fire service, paramedics and hospitals would not have wanted thousands of calls (or indeed on-site visits) from every blogger writing about it, even if they were the ones who considered themselves to be “breaking stories”, as Scoble puts it.
If we put it in the heads of every blogger out there (of which I am clearly one, as well as being a journalist) that they should act like a journalist, we could get to the stage where we put such a strain on the sources we seek to interview that they end up having to turn everyone down – both journalists and bloggers – which would be something of an own-goal.
Ironically, I am of the opinion that in many cases there is no difference between a blogger and a journalist – a blog is just a different publishing mechanism.
However when it comes to the process of researching stories, I would advocate that as a self-confessed blogging cheerleader, Scoble should not be encouraging every blogger to call sources. Naughty Scoble.
Referencing other news sources with proper accreditation is ample. The role of the blog then is to add the bloggers’ thoughts on and interpretation of the news, which is what – combined with the blog as a medium’s advantages, such as speed, network effects and all that good stuff – is what separates a blog from more traditional media.
In the case of Scoble leaving Microsoft, that’s a unique situation, because he is one of the more famous bloggers and many of the other ‘bloggorati’ would have wanted to talk to him about the implications, and he was clearly happy to be asked. Fair enough – direct interviews in areas where the traditional media wouldn’t want or be able to stray. But across the board bloggers seeking direct quotes? Bad idea mate.
Anyway Robert, I hope the new job goes well.