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Are live blogs the future of journalism?

Are live blogs the future of journalism?

Regular blogging can allow for a more detailed, expert opinion than traditional print stories, Reuter's Felix Salmon pointed out earlier this month. However, live blogging is different. It depends on information given right now, usually without analysis or heavy wording.

The form has become popular in the news industry as stories in Africa and Japan unfold. Readers have embraced the medium, bringing a huge surge in traffic and comments. The Guardian reported that live blogs account for 3.6 million unique visitors, 9 percent of the site's traffic. But as this style grows in prevalence, media experts and enthusiasts debate its pros and cons.

The cons are more obvious. With a constant live feed, readers can get lost in the story. The feeds are short and simple. For example, BBC New's live blog for Libya posted, "1031: Thirteen injured Libyans have been taken to Istanbul for treatment, a Turkish charity says. On Saturday, Turkey's deputy prime minister told a newspaper that the country was planning to treat about 450 wounded Libyans." Reading this alone, readers have no idea why the Libyans were injured, or how, or when, or even where. They just know that they have been injured and are being taken to Turkey.

This problem is exactly what The Louse and the Flea blog addressed in an entry entitled "The Guardian Newsblog and the Death of Journalism." The blog writer, a journalist, argues that live blogging takes away those main questions of journalism: who, what, when, where, why and how. He said, "You were left asking more questions than were answered [after reading the live blog]. Which makes a mockery of the journalist's craft."

It's true that live blogging reports the basics of live events and doesn't allow much room for expanding or linking back to other events, but the medium has its advantages. News can be posted quickly and without any flowery wording. The journalist has to get exactly to the point. The Guardian also pointed out the ease of posting Twitter and Facebook comments, videos and pictures, and linking to other things that give a more comprehensive view than a mere article.

Live blogs have proven their versatility. While they're useful during breaking stories like the tsunami in Japan and the revolution in Libya, they have other uses. Shorter, more defined events can be live blogged, giving readers instant access instead of making them wait until the event concludes. For example, they can take place during talks and speeches, such as the one Poynter plans on having today while Martin Nisenholtz, the New York Time's senior vice president for digital operations plans on giving a talk at a Dallas convention. During President Obama's State of the Union address in January, the Huffington Post had a live blog fact-checking everything he said. The Guardian has a politics live blog that breaks news from UK politics as it happens.

With its growing popularity, media outlets are searching for ways to make it more useful and easy to follow. BBC News has a "key points" section to keep readers from getting lost. Other news outlets acknowledge the importance of moderation in the comments sections to keep things from getting out of hand.

Time will tell if live blogs truly are, as the Guardian's Matt Wells claims, "surely the embodiment of [journalism's] future."

Sources: BBC News, The Guardian (1), (2), The Louse and the Flea, Poynter



Meghan Hartsell


2011-03-28 13:32

The World Editors Forum is the organization within the World Association of Newspapers devoted to newspaper editors worldwide. The Editors Weblog (www.editorsweblog.org), launched in January 2004, is a WEF initiative designed to facilitate the diffusion of information relevant to newspapers and their editors.

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