“There are journalists and there are bloggers. There are doctors and there are faith healers.” So said Jeff Cox moderating at the first Green Wine Summit yesterday in Santa Rosa, California during one of the breakout sessions. Here’s my disclosure: I’m not a doctor, a faith healer or a journalist. But I am fascinated by the current debate and passion stirred up between the old media, aka traditional journalists and bloggers. Wine bloggers in particular are wrestling with sorting their own guidelines, policy and formula we hope in an effort to uphold integrity in their writing. And while some do work to maintain high journalistic standards in their blogs, many are passionate wineophiles, novice-experts, who offer their posts for whom ever is interested without claims of journalistic superiority nor breach of integrity. They’re just writing stories, opinions, and reviews connecting with people who enjoy a similar interest.
Is there a threat to old media journalists that provokes them to sneer or denigrate bloggers? If you are measuring readership, perhaps so. I’m not sure how you qualify as a “real journalist”. Is it required to have a journalism degree? From which college or university? What if you never used that degree, became a teacher and now you blog? Are you a “real journalist” then? What if you don’t have the degree but have been working for a newspaper or magazine all your life, writing or editing? Are you a “real journalist” then?
Most (wine) bloggers don’t suggest they are journalists. We, their readers, hope and expect that they will aim for accuracy, honesty, integrity and full disclosure. But even “real journalists” have fallen short on more than one occasion. We also hope they will inform or entertain, lead us to great wine or make us laugh. Perhaps their value comes from the variety of material available from the blogs; but also from getting to know that voice, their tone and tendencies, their preferences and passions. The likes of classic, extraordinary journalists like Walter Cronkite and Andy Rooney have captured their audiences in no small part by revealing much of themselves in their reporting and writing. Who they are came through along with the information they were sharing. That makes me think even more that blogging is about connecting; connecting with people you share something with that maybe you don’t even know. With so many differences that separate and divide us, I find it a treat to connect with smart, passionate, talented bloggers who offer their experiences in wry or poignant, frank or even silly on-line content in their blog.
There is a great deal more debate to have regarding the sorting, classifying and clarifying of bloggers policies, integrity, qualifications, etc. The massive quantity of content on-line requires that users become better filters. Bloggers will have to take it upon themselves to produce quality content with full disclosure and integrity with whatever voice, interpretation, independence or style they choose.. There is no certification process or Hippocratic oath for bloggers (oh wait, I don’t think there is one for journalists either). Access to the internet has become a great equalizer giving many a voice, and readers, they never had before. And ultimately readership may determine the success of any (wine) blog. But, there are many who would write their blog even if no one were reading them. This may beg the question, “Why?”. Because they can.