Six years ago I was a fresh college graduate just getting started in the online marketing world. The average person didn’t know what a blog was, Facebook was restricted to university students in the U.S., and Twitter had yet to be invented. And the web was just starting to be respected and understood by mainstream marketing firms and teams.

Today, bloggers appear in commercials and social media is a key part of the marketing mix for brands both large and small. Finally, some respect! That said, I still see companies struggling with the connectivity, the immediacy, and the transparency of the web, and how it is all integrated into their organization. It’s an interesting problem, and one that I’ll continue to write more about on this blog.

Unrelated and relevant only to fellow Chicagoans – my agency is hosting an event at Social Media Week on social engagement and content creation – RSVP! It will be a great chance to gain some expertise, network with your fellow members of the media, and generally have a fabulous time.

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Global Voices Online has been one of my favorite sites for a while now.  It is a nonprofit project that “seeks to aggregate, curate, and amplify the global conversation online – shining light on places and people other media often ignore. We work to develop tools, institutions and relationships that will help all voices, everywhere, to be heard.” 

They translate and share posts written by wonderful bloggers from all the world – it is one of the most remarkable examples of citizen journalism on the web, in my opinion.  The founders also started  Global Voices Advocacy (which promotes free speech and defends bloggers from censorship) and Rising Voices (an outreach program that provides knowledge and resources to activists and citizen journalists in under-represented communities). 

The purpose of this love-fest is to point out the upcoming GlobalVoices Summit being held in Budapest at the end of June.  Now, I can only wish I was actually attending, but I’m sure it will be an amazing event – and that there will be lots of fantastic commentary on the conference blog.  Here’s a quote from the site:

“The Global Voices Citizen Media Summit 2008 will explore topics around the theme “Citizen Media and Citizenhood”, and address fundamental issues surrounding the actual and potential role of citizen media producers in the public life of the countries they live in. As the Internet and the increasing accessibility of citizen media tools offer growing numbers of people throughout the world the means to distribute information globally, how does this affect or change the ways in which people participate in public life? Can citizen media make people better citizens? How can citizen media help affect lasting social change?”

Personally, I believe that citizen media and blogging is incredibly important; after all, even the most intrepid reporter can’t cover everything, and besides, there is something very powerful about an individual or group telling their own story. 

 

Blogging and Journalism

October 29, 2007

One of the things that is so great about blogging is that your audience can participate and leave thought-provoking comments, like this one from Maryam (check out her blog – I hate to use cliches, but the classic “it’s a feast for the senses” truly applies here) left on this post: “Journalists I know who are not bloggers are concerned that so much of the blog world is so unchecked, unsubstantiated, and yet so influential…They feel it is out of control.  What do you think?”

There seems to be a divide between the bloggers and the non-bloggers on this issue.  The bloggers think that the blogosphere (and in most cases, the web in general) is awesome and wonderful and everyone should participate, while non-bloggers seem to focus on the more negative aspects of blogging.  Personally, I tend to take both sides with a grain of salt, although clearly I fall on the pro-web side.

In fact, that grain of salt is necessary when reading blogs as well – while posts on say, the New York Times’s array of blogs can be considered fairly credible, as well as the posts on plenty of independent blogs (just because someone doesn’t work for a major media outlet doesn’t mean they are necessarily incorrect or dishonest, after all), it is essential to realize that many bloggers or people who post/comment/write things on the web aren’t accountable to anyone, particularly if they’re anonymous. 

Is it getting out of control?  I’m not sure that’s the case – one of the best things about the blogosphere, in my opinion, is that anyone can participate and share their version of the truth, and out of all the stories, we can all form our own opinions and views.  Of course, gossip does tend to run rampant, but it’s not like bloggers invented sensationalism – the web just lets the juicy stories move faster and reach a bigger audience.  However, it seems that there is always someone ready to report their side of things of as well – the web is kind of self-regulating like that, even if some bloggers are prone to taking a story and running with it. 

I think that part of the problem is the rest of media’s perception of bloggers is the simple fact that the blogosphere encompasses everything from major sites like Daily Kos and the Huffington Postto personal diaries – and for every blogger who posts gossip and speculation (which isn’t something I take issue with as long it’s not presented as facts) or cat pictures, there is someone who’s acting like a journalist and reporting the news from their perspective, like all the brave souls blogging from inside Burma or the people who are first on the scene after a important event or a natural disaster occurs – the ones go places or see things that journalists can’t.

However, it is sometimes difficult to determine whether a blog or website is credible, which is indeed a problem.  It’s not like it’s even remotely possible to issue blogging licenses or regulate the internet – at all.  And isn’t one of the best things about the web is that it’s a completely democratic platform; anyone can publish whatever they want (and for those of you who are going to get all Andrew Keenian here – if you don’t like something, you really don’t have to read/watch/listen to it). 

When it comes to determining the credibility of something on the web, we have to listen to our own instincts (although personally, I tend to immediately discount sites or blogs that are full of spelling and grammatical errors – a few typos are human, but if someone lacks a basic grasp of the language, I don’t listen to them.  A little bitchy, I know, but considering the glut of content on the web and the ease with which anyone can post, taking the time to write and edit something coherent is essential to getting your voice heard).

To that end, is being a blogger really so different from being a columnist?  You’re writing about things from your own perspective, in your own voice, and sharing your opinions on a regular basis.  Some bloggers just have more widely columns than others, the same as traditional journalists.

Of course, feel free to take my opinions with a grain of salt.  I’m a blogger, after all.