I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read an article proclaiming the death of blogging, for reasons too numerous to mention. But while the independent blogging arena is constantly in a state of flux as it defines itself (mixing Heraclitus and Sartre, if you will), these last couple of weeks have shown how vital and how vibrant blogging can be when applied by the mainstream media.
Over at the Guardian, Steve Busfield’s three days of live blogging the unfolding Liverpool court drama was as good an appraisal and ongoing update of a topsy-turvy ongoing story as you’ll find anywhere, while today’s best coverage and analysis of the government spending cuts has been on assorted live blogs across the mainstream media. And earlier in the year, the G20 protests were well covered by live blogs.
In many respects, this is no different from Nosemonkey’s live blog on the London 7/7 bombings from five years ago, but, as the internet moves in circles, a little, live blogs have come back round into fashion and some. And with and even bigger wealth of sources to gather information from, they’ve become even more comprehensive in the information they provide.
This isn’t dismissing other mediums, both online and off, but none are able to tie all ends together quite like a well-written and curated live blog.
Twitter is still the best place for breaking news and developing stories that are unplanned, but when the story is expected, even if the outcome is not, then a liveblog often trumps Twitter (while drawing heavily from information on it), simply because journalistic resources have already been allocated in that direction.
Live chats, using Cover It Live and similar tools, are a fun and interesting alternative, but, having curated many myself, if the chat is successful then much of the time is spent managing the room rather than searching for extra information. It’s also quite reactive and doesn’t leave much space for analysis.
Broadcast media is still excellent in places. TV is both a fantastic medium for breaking news – after all, nothing quite hammers home a story like seeing it live – but can often be let own by the need to constantly be showing something on screen, hence the hours of filling by reporters at a scene where nothing much is happening (and is one of the reasons I tend to prefer radio at times like these).
But a liveblog can bring in all of the above. It can embed video and audio, it can tap into Tweets, it can easily flag up other relevant blogs and analysis on the subject, and the very best ones use the comments to both flag up points that the writer hasn’t already made, and steer the conversation. They also allow time for reflection and analysis during lulls.
There’s nothing new or revolutionary about live blogs but, as with so many mediums, some times all it takes is a slight improvement on what you’ve already got, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel. And the fact the mainstream media live blogs attract so many hits and comments suggests they’re far from the dying industry some may suggest (although this doesn’t mean it’s an industry that’s overly secure in its future).
If anybody asks about the future of journalism, it’s hard not to get excited about what you can do with a live blog. The medium may have been around for ages but it doesn’t mean the technique is any less fresh.