Bloggers who aren't parasites! An academic finds a species of blogger that pulls its weight.

Media criticism.
Aug. 10 2011 6:20 PM

Bloggers, Not Parasites

An academic finds local public-affairs bloggers who pull their weight, thank you very much.

Illustration by Mark Alan Stamaty. Click image to expand.

The next time you catch a full-of-himself newspaper journalist bitching about bloggers ripping him off or a publisher bellyaching about his intellectual-property rights being violated by pajamaed parasites, wave a printout of this column in his face and knee him in the groin.

According to media scholar Brendan R. Watson, bloggers writing about local public affairs do not rely primarily on established media for most of their source material. Watson, a University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill media scholar, is presenting his paper this week at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication conference ("Bloggers' Reliance on Newspaper, Online, and Original Sources in Reporting on Local Subjects Ignored by the Press").

Advertisement

Watson originally selected 330 public-affairs blogs in 92 cities that were independent of ties to traditional media outlets, commercial operations, chambers of commerce, and politicians. From that group, he culled at random 100 blogs for study, and from each blog he plucked 10 posts from 10 random days in 2009 and parsed their contents for their sources.

In the 1,000 blog posts examined, bloggers used 2,246 sources, of which only 517 were from traditional media, and Watson found that local public-affairs bloggers are more likely to depend on original sources—documents, government databases, shoe-leather reporting (interviews, eyewitness reports, etc.)—than on media sources. "Additionally, when these bloggers do use traditional media sources, they are also likely to use additional, non-media sources," Watson writes.

The bloggers studied use significantly greater numbers of traditional media sources when writing about nonlocal topics, but as Watson notes, their use may be analogous to a local paper's use of a news wire to cover nonlocal news: Neither has the resources to collect nonlocal news.

Watson writes:

Locally, the fact that bloggers' use of news media sources to discuss subjects frequently ignored by the news media—and the frequency with which bloggers write about these subjects—also says something about how local public affairs place blogs may complement newspapers as a source of local information. The contributions of local public affairs place bloggers has been masked by an overestimation of their reliance on the traditional news media.

While Watson's work won't erase the popular image of freeloading bloggers sucking the fat out of media heavyweights, it may help reset the argument about what local bloggers really do. Here's hoping that his paper finds publication in a journal soon. Now, please excuse me while I print out this column, stretch my kicking foot, and go on the prowl for those bitching journalists and their bellyaching publishers.

******

Should I should kick soccer-style or give them the Lou Groza? Send advice to slate.pressbox@gmail.com. Feed the parasite that is my Twitter feed by following it. (Email may be quoted by name in "The Fray," Slate's readers' forum; in a future article; or elsewhere unless the writer stipulates otherwise. Permanent disclosure: Slate is owned by the Washington Post Co.)

Track my errors: This hand-built RSS feed will ring every time Slate runs a "Press Box" correction. For email notification of errors in this specific column, type parasites in the subject head of an email message, and send it to slate.pressbox@gmail.com.

TODAY IN SLATE

History

Slate Plus Early Read: The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Transparent Is the Fall’s Only Great New Show

The XX Factor

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada

Now, journalists can't even say her name.

Doublex

Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

  News & Politics
History
Sept. 29 2014 11:45 PM The Self-Made Man The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 29 2014 7:01 PM We May Never Know If Larry Ellison Flew a Fighter Jet Under the Golden Gate Bridge
  Life
Dear Prudence
Sept. 29 2014 3:10 PM The Lonely Teetotaler Prudie counsels a letter writer who doesn’t drink alcohol—and is constantly harassed by others for it.
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 29 2014 11:43 PM Lena Dunham, the Book More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 29 2014 8:45 AM Slate Isn’t Too Liberal, but … What readers said about the magazine’s bias and balance.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 29 2014 9:06 PM Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice Looks Like a Comic Masterpiece
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 29 2014 11:56 PM Innovation Starvation, the Next Generation Humankind has lots of great ideas for the future. We need people to carry them out.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 29 2014 11:32 PM The Daydream Disorder Is sluggish cognitive tempo a disease or disease mongering?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.