Bloggers, Journalists, and their Subjects

Robert Scoble has posted an interesting summary of a casual interview he had with Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, while at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The interview’s tone is rather gushing about Zuckerberg. I find this to be an interesting window into the relationships that blogger-journalists share with their subjects. At the end of the article, Scoble points out that he realizes the tone of the article is very pro-Zuckerberg. Which in general is contrary to the attention that Zuckerberg gets throughout the blog community and in wider media circles.

To what degree does the ability of an interviewee’s charisma influence a journalist’s perspective on a story? I don’t really consider Scoble a journalist. As a blogger, he offers an extreme first-person reporting of events that he’s witness to. His perspectives, prejudices, and reactions to those events are his blogging. The traditional faux-objectivity of mainstream reporting obviously doesn’t apply.

A “true” journalist encounters their story and subjects in a similar manner. As a consumer of information that is relayed to me through various media, it’s very important to me to consider and ask questions like:

  • How did this author interact with the people and events surrounding this story?
  • How are their views coming to bear on the decisions they make as a writer in what information to include and not include?

Where there is an inherent or implied code of ethics for professional journalism with major news publications these questions are generally more focused on the subtle aspects of reporting. Obviously a professional journalist is going to maintain a sense of impartiality and air of objectivity. But with blogging, it becomes very central and obvious that each author is a subjective lens that is filtering and processing information, as opposed to being a relayer of information.

Scoble’s approach is to make a very rough and raw portrait of his experiences. It’s blogging-verite. It’s gonzo journalism without the drugs. Scoble becomes part of the event, and that is not hidden. He brings his prejudices and views along with him.

As readers and consumers of blogs, it’s important that we’re aware of this as we form our own opinions and views regarding these experiences that are shared through blogging. Some prominent bloggers, can be so influential in their user circles that they or their views become automatically worshiped or reviled.

The future success of blogging, and the unique characteristics it brings to information exchange, rely on the ability of its consumers to understand its subjective nature.

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