SXSW 2011: Bloggers vs. Journalists

@JayRosen_nyu and Lisa Williams from Placeblogger.com are here to talk about bloggers versus journalists. The pitch:

I wrote my essay, Bloggers vs. Journalists is Over, in 2005. And it should be over. After all, lots of journalists happily blog, lots of bloggers journalize and everyone is trying to figure out what’s sustainable online. But there’s something else going on, and I think I’ve figured out a piece of it: these two Internet types, amateur bloggers and pro journalists, are actually each other’s ideal “other.” A big reason they keep struggling with each other lies at the level of psychology, not in the particulars of the disputes and flare-ups that we continue to see online.

I’ll try my best to liveblog the action.

3:35pm:“You learn to wear the mask, if you want to join the club,” Rosen says about the psychology behind journalists and the “club” we’re part of.

3:36pm: Disruptions by the internet threaten to expose conflicts within the press. Internet exports inner conflicts to the world outside the press.

3:39pm: On Bill Keller’s piece, which ribs aggregators like Huffington Post and others for “derivative work”, Rosen concludes that there’s something about bloggers vs. journalists that permits the display of a “preferred” or idealized self among people in the press whose work lives have been disrupted by the internet. “Spitting at bloggers is closely related to gazing at your own reflection and falling in love with it again,” Rosen says.

3:40pm: Yikes, I feel like I’m back in journalism school. Jay’s quoting people from Europe and stuff. This is so … academic. My brain is too small.

3:42pm: We’re focusing a lot on this notion of bloggers “replacing” journalists. That there is, or was, a view by mainstream journalists that bloggers versus journalists is a mutually exclusive arrangement. I’m assuming this builds toward the argument (now pretty widely accepted) that we’re not one or the other, but both.

3:47pm: What do bloggers get from hanging on to this divide? “By raging at newspaper editors, bloggers manage to keep themselves on the outside of a system they are in fact, part of. It’s one internet, people. The system now incorporates the people formerly known as the audience.” Bloggers and journos are each other’s ideal “other.” The conflict, for bloggers, helps preserve the ragged innocence by falsely putting “all” power in “big media.”

3:49pm: The press is us, not them, Rosen argues. Bloggers and journalists who refer to the word “traditional” — that tradition is 80-90 years old. But our experiment with is is 250 years old. Whole chapters of that history were rejected in order to claim “elevated status.” “With blogging, they have come roaring back,” Rosen says.

Not Jay Rosen. Lincoln Steffens.

3:52pm: “Something dropped out of journalism between 1902 and 2002. The bloggers are the return of the repressed,” Rosen says. He argues bloggers are the return of muckrackers like Lincoln Steffens and bring back what was lost in the transition from journalism to a business.

3:55pm: So, people become journalists largely for some social justice reason, i.e., making the world a better place. But then the professional codes in place often prevent this. “It’s hard to fight for justice when you have to master he said, she said. Voice is something you have to take out when you want to succeed in the modern newsroom,” Rosen says.

3:56pm: Bloggers, on the flip side, jump straight to voice. Points to dumping on Dave Weigel by WashPo staffers as an example of bloggers vs journalists struggle absorbed into newsroom.

3:57pm: Rosen gives us a helpful heads up that he’s almost done with his general expository talk. “I’m coming in for a landing. Five minute and we’ll have questions.”

3:59pm: In pro-journalism, the terms of authority have to change. The practice has to become more interactive, and this has to happen during a time of enormous stress. The story the press has been telling itself has broken down. It no longer helps journalists navigate the conditions today. We have to tell ourselves a new story about what we do and why it matters. Bloggers vs Journalists struggle is a refusal to change. “It’s fucking neurotic,” he concludes.

4:04pm: HEY it’s Q and A time! He says he’s for “mutualization.” We have something to contribute to journalism (as we’ve seen with all the video of the earthquake, etc), and journalists have something to contribute, namely, discipline, to bloggers.

4:06pm: Rosen: If you are accurate, and fair, and deal in verifiable information, you can write with voice or practice institutional voice. There’s no separation from truthtelling and attitude. The people telling us about the world must understand importance of accuracy, transparency, intellectual honesty. “Whether or not you voice your opinion in my view is a stylistic question.”

4:08pm: On the rise of Fox News’ agenda-driven journalism: We have to hope for building trust is more important than grabbing mindshare. This is a permanent tension.

4:11pm: Are we ever going to get beyond the conflict between bloggers and journalists?, Stacey from Paid Content asks. “In psychology, you don’t get over the things that have wounded you. You don’t dismiss the neuroses that formed you. Instead, what we can hope for is to create a lot more room for maneuvering so we aren’t trapped by these things anymore. By going right at this conflict, I’m hoping we can transcend it.”

4:16pm: We’re on shield law now and how the law should protect acts of journalism instead of journalists. Unpacks the notion that the journalism profession is the only one protected by the First Amendment.

4:18pm: This is so meta. Clay Shirky asking a question of Jay Rosen. Question is about the role of journalism schools. Rosen essentially argues there are two kinds of journalists – those educated in j-school, and those educated in the school of life. “[Journalism school] about taking something that was a working class trade and elevating it to the status of a profession,” Rosen said. “That’s where the notions of objectivity come from.” … Then we get a comparison to the phone sex industry.

4:21pm: A question from Twitter on the projection screen is about “the NPR vs. sting video fracas”. Waiting…

4:25pm: Rosen says James O’Keefe is a blogger in terms of using tools of self publishing. But he thinks of O’Keefe as a performance artist whose work objective is to create panic in institutions. “NPR gave into his performance by panicking and firing its CEO,” Rosen says. (See his argument on PressThink.) Rosen argues that if NPR doesn’t realize there are enemies out there, they won’t do enough to counteract it. “I think there’s lots of people in public media who know that, but it’s the people at the top who don’t know how to reconcile that.”

4:29pm: Rosen gets a paywall question. He says he’s not religious about it. He thinks it’s a practical question. “It’s really hard to tell people who are producing commodity content that they’re producing commodity content, so that’s a huge barrier right there. He says we need journalism to bring attention of something to the community of the whole. But paywalls threaten to make journalism, which is about informing the public, more like private newsletters. That then creates the “insider class.” What’s at stake is that if we go to a world where newsletter model supports professional journalists, then we say that informing the public as a whole is something we’ve left behind.

4:34pm: More Rosen advice for NPR, namely to embrace transparency of individual views and “pluralism,” which is explained in his post linked above.

4:38pm: With our remaining time, we look at how money relates to blogging and bloggers. “What makes a big difference is whether you need to keep doing what you’re doing. An accidental journalist who doesn’t need to continue to do that, is in a different position than a person who’s trying to make their living at it. The investment needing to pay returns changes the relationships with the user.”

4:41pm: Something about phone sex workers again. AND WE COME FULL CIRCLE!

I think that does it for me … off to SXSW parties galore. More to come tomorrow.

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