Friday, May 02, 2008

What is reporting?

It's something of a throwaway graf in this Marc Ambinder post, but I am not completely sure I agree with the distinction:
Incidentally, when some critics say "report," they really mean "mention" or "put on your blog." Two different things. Reporting entails an open mind and contacting sources; putting it on a blog entails a few mindless keystrokes. I do both, although I check everything I post, and I find it funny when partisans congratulate me for "reporting" on something when all I've really done is to give it a brief mention, as if the very presence alone is all that's required.
As a blogger who reports/reporter who blogs, the way I look at it is just simply that the the phone is not the only reporting tool. In fact, just plain ol' googling or those mindless keystrokes can themselves be a form of reporting.

To be sure, most of what we consider to be the best reporting entails discovering new information. Ambinder is right to point out that posting a YouTube doesn't exactly meet that criterion. Besides being a real rush, breaking news is very important, and I am certainly not denigrating that function of a reporter.

But another part of a reporter's job is to track down information from disparate sources and weave it into a coherent narrative for an audience. A blog is itself a kind of ongoing narrative, so posting a YouTube or whatever can fit that definition.

There is a certain type of blog post (this one, for example) that is simply commentary spun off from a primary source. But it's also possible to use a blog post to combine pre-existing facts in a novel way, or to present some part of a story in a new way. I think that should be counted as a form of reporting, too.

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