Monday, December 15, 2008

Could we please stop using the word “blogger”?

In a recent post on the Pulitzer decision to open its awards to online-only news organizations, MediaShift pointed to Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall’s receipt of the Polk Award earlier this year, saying he was “the first blogger” to win such a prestigious award.

To which I reply, could we please stop using the word “blogger”?

Mostly because the term is loaded, and more importantly because it is inaccurate—if we define inaccurate as “incorrectly describing the thing being described.”

The term “blogger” is loaded because it still evokes images of dubiously informed pajama pundits pounding away at their keyboards in the middle of the night, offering little real value to the world of journalism, other, perhaps, than alternative ways of looking at news reported by others.

But as more and more serious journalism is being distributed using blog platforms, continuing to use the term does a disservice to us all. It’s not just that its somewhat dismissive connotations are quasi-disrespectful to the folks who are not “dubiously informed pajama pundits.” It’s also that using the term perpetuates the notion that most people who communicate via blogging platforms are indeed such folks when, in fact, they are not necessarily so. Perpetuating those incorrect impressions gets in the way of understanding the actual—and valuable work—that many journalists are doing online. A journalist distributing journalism online should be called a “journalist.” Only then can we all understand—and appreciate—that what they’re doing is, in fact, journalism.

If that’s not enough to convince you, how about the simple point of accuracy? The word “blog” describes a delivery mechanism, just as the terms “newspaper”, “TV”, and “radio” all describe delivery mechanisms. The term “blog” does not describe the activity performed by a person using that mechanism. Just as someone who appears on TV may do so in any number of contexts—actor, talk show host, reporter—a person who uses a blog to communicate to the world may be performing any number of activities—opinionating, traveloguing, reporting. So to use the word “blogger” to refer to someone who uses blogging technology is as inaccurate—and potentially ridiculous, if you actually think about it—as it would be to refer to someone who communicates via TV as a “TVer”.

So here’s my plea. Starting in 2009, could we retire the word “blogger” and, instead, simply label people using blogs according to the specific work they are doing? Call a journalist a journalist, a pundit a pundit, and people who do both (like Marshall) "a journalist and pundit."


Photo courtesy of procsilas. Creative Commons license.

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