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LJWorld.com weblogs Ashley Montgomery

Don't let fear kill the blogs

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In the past few years bloggers have become more and more prominent sources of information and entertainment. Many online news outlets are now faced with the question of whether to allow reporters to blog about the issues they cover. Some fear that allowing reporters to blog compromises credibility.

Some of the risks are outlined in Poynter's article about Online Journalism Ethics. The expression of bias could cause sources to change how they respond and to lose trust in a reporter. Bias may also lead readers to doubt the accuracy of future stories.

Thus it is important for blogging journalists to review their plans for blogs, and possibly each post, with an editor. Reporters must also remain mindful of their objective, as well as the risks in blogging.

Blogging is a way of showing that a reporter understands and can use new media. It allows reporters to interact with their audience so that they can answer questions and develop a greater understanding of what the public wants. Blogs can also provide reporters with an outlet for information that doesn't make it into news stories and for stories that the paper is not able to include at all.

Scott Karp argues that "Every Newspaper Journalist Should Start A Blog." If you skip to Update #2 towards the bottom of the post you'll find a discussion on the need and benefits of reporter blogs, especially in relation to readers. Blogs are an easy way for readers to subscribe to sources of information that pique their particular interests. This draws readers to the news site and can direct them to other stories and sources of information.

USA Today blogs range from posts of breaking news to blogs on the subject of a reporter's regular beat. All link to other stories, articles, and information.

Cathy Lynn Grossman is a religion beat reporter with a blog called Faith & Reason. On Nov. 27 she posted "Say 'Merry Christmas' --or else! 'MC-only' zealots insist." She presents the issue of greetings during the holiday season without showing religious bias, but with a voice and passion that blogs are known for.

A religious blog has the potential be a detriment to a writer's credibility, but because Grossman does not state her religious beliefs, does not put down any specific religion, and steers clear of highly controversial problems she avoids losing respect. The result is what I find to be an entertaining and informative blog. The number of comments shows that it draws readers and the nature of the discussion is largely positive.

This is the kind of blog that reporters should strive to create and editors should support through developing guidelines for their reporters. For instance, Blog posts might only be allowed on certain topics and they could be reviewed by an editor before posting.

While certain topics might endanger the credibility of a reporter, the whole idea shouldn't be thrown out because of fear.

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