'Parasites' find a champion

by Saleem Khan, CBC News Online

Try as we might, it seems we can't escape the idea that bloggers are parasites. We certainly don't like the notion since we count ourselves among the ranks of those seeking out new, informative and even quirky and whimsical things online, comparing and contrasting them with other finds, throwing in some original reporting and research and sharing it all with anyone who cares to read it.

It's nice to see we're not alone.

Robert Niles, editor of the Online Journalism Review, takes a look at the aspersions cast on bloggers – mainly by professional journalists working for daily newspapers.

The charge riles me every time I hear it. To me, it's a poorly informed insult of many hard-working Web publishers who are doing fresh, informative and original work. And by dismissing blogs as "parasitic," newspaper journalists make themselves blind to the opportunities that blogging, as well as independent Web publishing in general, offer to both the newspaper industry and newspaper journalists.

Niles surveys a broad swath of experts that include bloggers, university professors and professional journalists – including some who fit all three descriptions. Boing Boing editor Cory Doctorow, Yahoo News editor-in-chief Neil Budde and BlogHer.org's Lisa Stone are among those who offer their perspectives in Niles' essay.

A dispassionate look at the evidence flies in the face of the parasitism claim, he says:

There exist thousands of blogs and websites devoted to topics that so-called "mainstream" media fails to cover. By dismissing all blogs as derivative of their own coverage, newspaper journalists reaffirm the cultural myopia that has caused them to miss issues and passions that are of deeply felt interest to so many former, or potential, newspaper readers. ...

Instead of dismissing the blogs and websites to which their former readers and viewers are flocking, newspaper and TV journalists ought to be asking themselves what those blogs are doing that *they* could be doing to get those readers back.

At least one bastion of the mainstream media may have clued in to this.

The Economist ("don't call us a magazine") newspaper has launched a sort of Skunk Works-type of black box undertaking called Project Red Stripe (no, not that one), in which it has charged six people with "creating an innovative and web-based product, service or business model by July 2007."

No one on the Red Stripe team knows what that might be, but they're not ruling out some sort of blog-like service, and are inviting people to tell the team what they want the effort to produce – through a blog.

Whatever the future of journalism – and by extension blogging – may be, one thing seems to be clear: It's all up to you.