Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Lessons from New York, Vol. 1

Last week I went on what turned out to be an eye-opening journey to New York City. The trip, which was organized through our University's journalism program, centered around giving students an idea of what the magazine business is like in New York City RIGHT NOW.

Apparently, the capitol of magazine writing has reversed course on its stance regarding blogs. Here in the Midwest, many of my professors still cling to the idea that blogs are an evil force which corrodes at the core integrity of journalism. In the words of one of my professors just this afternoon, "Blogs are shit." It's difficult to blame them. Many of these professors made their living in print journalism. As we discovered in many of our conversations in New York, blogs are in many ways contrary to the classic values that print journalists hold sacred. Accuracy, objectivity, diversity of sources, all of these things are often compromised in the world of blogging. Yet sooner or later all journalists are going to have to find peace with blogs because, as John Carney, managing editor of Clusterstock points out, blogs are growing all of the time.

Carney's operation at Clusterstock could be considered an aberration by many of my professors. Yet Carney was defiant and somewhat defensive about the traditional journalism argument.

"A lot of those rules have only been around for a very short time," Carney said, "they weren't handed down by God to Moses."

An online business blog, Clusterstock utilizes a very loose editorial structure which allows its writers more freedom. At the same time, this also means that the website assumes greater risks to its credibility from the possibility of inaccuracies.

"Our willingness to put things out there and then readily make changes (corrections) makes us look human," says Carney, "[but] we have to put a lot of trust in people who write for us."

Carney also has no problem getting close to sources, often getting his stories from nights out at dinner with wall street underlings.

"Your best sources are your friends," said Carney.

It will be interesting to see whether this type of loosely-edited journalism continues to take hold. If it does, we will have to observe the implications that it has for information within our society. One thing is for sure: blogs aren't going away any time soon. At every place that we visited, which included Time, Esquire, Popular Mechanic, and New York Magazine, everyone was talking about blogging. I guess that the real question isn't if we should blog, but how we should blog going forward...


  1. In terms of credibility, I automatically skip over any blogs that are riddled with errors. Considering the seemingly infinite number of blogs, I want to follow people who take editing seriously. Readers don't have the time to read blogs that cannot communicate effectively. I would imagine that John Carney has been writing long enough that even his sloppiest posts are still intelligible, but I really disagree with that attitude.

  2. Look at the juxtaposition of your two recent posts. One says you won't be able to blog because you'll be in transit. The other says the timeliness of a blog post is so important that the details can be ironed out later. Which is it?
    The MESSAGE trumps the medium. You have to have something to say -- in a slow, old newspaper or in a quick, new Tweet.

  3. Yeah, this seems like another case of journalists doing what they do -- notoriously resisting and resisting the change that would probably help them stay afloat. Blogs are not evil by necessity.

  4. It sounds like you definitely learned quite a bit while on the New York trip. I particularly like how you explained the different feelings about blogs. I feel as though it is definitely caused by a generation gap. Last summer, I worked for a music critic that has a very well known blog, yet when I mentioned it to some adults, they merely scoffed at me. However, the younger crowd appreciated the blog's importance much more. Hopefully people will see the light and understand the true power a blog and it's author can wield.

  5. After hearing all of you guys talking after you got back from the New York trip, I really want to start a website/public blog. I just don't know what to write about, or know if I have the time and energy. :(