The blurry line between blogging and journalism

I used to think that getting paid is what differentiated The Media from blogs, but I'm increasingly not so sure about this. For example, WCHL uses a large number of unpaid interns as news reporters, and now they want some lucky "winner" to provide voice talent to promote their new FM signal

If you think YOU have the perfect voice for radio, then this is the contest for you!

Click on the "Scripts" tab above, follow the links to download and print the three scripts, record yourself reading all three scripts in the best BIG FM RADIO voice you can, and submit the file (as either an MP3 or a Video File) through the submissions tab. 

The winner receives the opportunity to record commercials and radio spots to be aired on 97.9 FM WCHL and a $100 gift card to a local restaurant!   

Conversely the Raleigh Public Record is a fantastic blog* covering issues in Wake County, and they make a point of paying their writers. (Not sure if they would consider it a blog or something else, but it feels bloggy to me.) I often say that although I'm not a journalist, I do sometimes commit acts of journalism in the course of blogging.

Is there a difference any more? If so, what is it or does it even matter? 



I won't claim to have the answer, but I think it is a very important question.  To me, the difference is a set of ethics that I would associate with journalists.  It is an important question to me because I like to make sure I get my "news" from people who follow those rules.  Unfortunately, some in The Media have strayed from that commitment in trying to figure out how to get paid for what they do, and certainly many bloggers (sort of) follow same rules, so it is VERY grey. 

I agree that ethical standards are more important than whether the person is paid to convey information or ideas. Some people seem to  think (or used to think) that there is some uniform creed for journalists, but if you look at both the past and the present, there are clearly a wide range of interpretations of how much opinion and adovacy is OK, or how much fact-checking is required.I feel like I have followed a strong personal ethical code, and I have tried to operationalize it here as much as possible. The other OP Editors can tell you that we often have conversations about policy in light of what is fair on consistent.I spent a lot of time trying to document this in the site's guidelines (, although they mostly get behavior and not facts since we don't have a research team to check every blog post and comment. I wonder if we should add a bullet in the content section about patently false information? We currently rely on readers to fact-check each other and perfer to let the public record stand, corections and all.

These are some questions I have tried to grapple with myself.  When I post on my blog on the OP, I have never considered myself to be engaging in journalism.  I do, however, attempt to be factually accurate when including data and follow the OP guidelines.  However, when I write my weekly science column on, I do consider myself to be engaging in journalism, despite the fact that the column contains a healthy dose of opinion. So in my case, it seems to be a distinction that I make largely for myself.   Your question about whether or not it matters is an interesting one.  In the mainstream media, there is a practice of presenting both "sides" of an issue on equal footing notwithstanding how absurd one of those positions might be in order to appear unbiased.  For example, one politician might state that based on historical data she believes that it's likely that the sun will rise the following morning.  Her opponent will claim that this alledged "sun theory" is a socialist, freedom-killing leftist plot.  These two views would then be given equal footing when reported.I think that this lack of courage from traditional media outlets that has provided the space for non-traditional media outlets to prosper.   Perhaps to paraphrase former supreme court justice Potter Stewart, I suppose I know journalism when I see it.

Sundays on HBO, The Newsroom provides Sorkin's view on exactly that issue.  For a guy like me who loves news so much he married a journalist, it's a fun show.  Of course, it doesn't hurt that I agree a lot with Sorkin.


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