Old media Luddism and the new world of blogging

The past couple years as a journalism student at UNC, I’ve faced the same questions on the first days of classes each semester: “What’s your name, hometown and something interesting about yourself?”

And each class, every semester, my mind races with how I’m going to answer the last part of the introductory question that forms the foundation of my peers’ perception of me.

Do I say My name is Ben, I’m from Charlotte and I cover the Charlotte Bobcats for SB Nation? Do I replace that last part with and I’m the managing editor of SB Nation’s Charlotte Bobcats site?

Or do I just come out and say I blog about the Charlotte Bobcats?

Maybe this is over-analyzing the situation. I do tend to think that way. But the perception when it comes to a journalistic position and the word “blogger,” the connotations are very far apart. One is thought of a respectable profession and the other is often thought of as simply some bozo spilling his wild thoughts to the frenzied frontier that is the Internet, a lowly basement-dweller beneath the regard of even the loons that pen letters to the editor. And I have to think about how this will characterize me to my peers.

You could be a sports columnist writing homophobic columns for a small newspaper and that title will give you higher repute than blogging better-written pieces. And yet the old guard of print media with their feet willingly planted in concrete penny loafers tries to perpetuate this stereotype of bloggers being poor writers, wantonly making mistakes with reckless disregard for truth and effort that covering anything should get.

It’s rather disgusting. I understand that the financial viability of print media is faltering and has been for years now, and that saddens me. Like other art forms I hold dear, I value the physical form. I like reading newspapers and magazines to the extent that I have a newspaper subscription and pick up magazines that intrigue me whenever I can.

But even more than that, I like reading strong writing founded on good research. Unfortunately for newspapers (and other tenured media), print media is no longer the only major outlet for those who wish to express their well-researched opinions to a large audience.

On the whole, this is a good thing. It’s evolution of journalism, for better or for worse. Wider access for people creates a much more diverse landscape of viewpoints on a more diverse variety of topics, leading to a more informed audience. Quality writing for large audiences is no longer constrained to mainstream media outlets. Sticking your head in the sand and feet in the ground while making unfounded ad hominem attacks against bloggers is little more than journalistic Luddism. Further, if traditional media are such credible sources of news and writing, then why are their credibility ratings continuing to fall?

Times are certainly changing, especially evident with the wave of old-school writers joining Twitter to interact with the readers on the Internet. Thankfully, some of the aforementioned “old guard of print media” are eager to recognize the merits of blogging and are receptive to the new development. And though perception is changing, some refuse to accept that many of those who write online are not only gifted writers with expertise in their beats but trained as such with journalism and English degrees. We are not so different. In a different media landscape, a fair number of bloggers would have joined you at the horseshoe copy desk.

Ever still, newspaper scribes like the Boston Globe’s Kevin Paul Dupont continue to put down bloggers as some kind of third-world writing. He likens bloggers to the “replacement reporters/writers” of journalism, nothing more than mere typists. Dupont pats himself and his peers on the back for charity work, making a mockery of his own underlying reasons for goodwill just to slam bloggers from a nonexistent moral high ground that he fails to research for a second. If he had, he’d notice the $200,000 that comic blogger sensation The Oatmeal raised for charities. Or if he just wants to focus on the sports realm, these are some I found in five minutes of Google searching — just on SB Nation. He cries that bloggers lack ethics or morals, but perhaps the ultimate ethical fault is laziness, and Dupont has certainly exemplified this as he tries to deflect his insecurities with uber-machismo wit that reeks of what I call “Trying Too Hard Syndrome.”

Bloggers have come a long way to legitimacy. They’re making their way onto your television sets, into your newspaper (HEAVEN FORFEND!), onto your radios, into your favorite team’s front office, in your media availability scrums asking the best questions, you name it. The close-minded people that continue to demean blogging like Dupont are on the wrong side of journalistic and media history. Their intent is to hurt the image of blogging, yet just end up damaging their own.

Blogging has rightfully emerged as a growing new medium, especially in sports writingSo you’re damn right I’ve come to welcome my position writing in this so-called “blogosphere” with pride.

My name is Ben Swanson and I’m from Charlotte.

And I’m a blogger.

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