SMCLA and Why it Matters a LOT that Bloggers Aren’t Journalists

Last night I was on a panel at for Social Media Club LA. It was called “Meet the Bloggers” and I thought it would be about the intersection of blogging and marketing but it went into a direction I hadn’t expected, which was just blogging.

Since I had my own agenda I tried to address the fact that bloggers aren’t journalists (I think the moderator disagreed with me). There were three other people waiting to speak so I didn’t get to quite finish my thought which was that bloggers are not journalists and therefore should be approached very differently.

This matters.

are bloggers journalists


Liz asks a really great question. What is the difference between a blogger and a journalist besides the medium?

Since bloggers aren’t journalists they don’t need three independent sources to verify a story. If you’re a publicist or a marketer this means that your pitches to have your expert chime in on news stories are much less likely to be relevant. If you’re trying to get coverage for a client on a blogger’s site it might be a better approach to have your client talk about the blogger rather than the news. You’ll have to actually read the blog and find out what the blogger writes about. It’s a little more legwork than pitching a reporter who has an assigned beat.

Solo bloggers don’t have editors or deadlines and therefore do not need story ideas with the same frequency as journalists. Every day I have a handful of emails that say STORY IDEA: blah blah blah. The reason I’m sure they say blah blah blah is because I’ve never actually needed a story idea and when I see Story Idea in the subject line I delete the emails. If you’re a publicist who loves to pitch story ideas it might be worth your while to email bloggers and ask them if they are ever looking for story ideas and if so what type. Then folks like me will say “no thank you” and bloggers who are looking for story ideas will be able to tell you how you can pitch them. It’s a little more work but if it keeps you out of spam folders it’s time well spent.

Journalists are not allowed to accept gifts, cash or swag. Bloggers might take everything. Well, this is up for debate and I hear plenty of stories about journalists who are rewarded generously and bloggers who refuse to accept swag but the reality is that if you’re pitching an old media journalist you can pitch them the story. If you’re pitching a blogger you can pitch them the “how does it benefit you” angle. This may include a swanky party, payment (sponsored posts or tweets), keeping the clothes/tech/device/accessories, junkets or simple affiliate opportunities. It’s entirely possible a blogger is interested in none of these things but it does differentiate them from Journalists and it’s important to note the difference.

There are as many ways to blog as there are bloggers and group sites can be newsy (think HuffPo) but the pitch has to change if you want to reach the bloggers. Liz, that is why I really wanted a room full of marketers and bloggers to understand that bloggers are not journalists.


Facebook Comments

  • Jay Fleischman

    Publication doesn’t equal journalism, but journalism takes make forms. I think it’s dangerous to say that you can’t be journalistic merely because you’ve chosen a blog (or video, or a podcast) as a platform.

    The keys to journalism are editorial neutrality and factual verification. If someone approaches blogging in that fashion, I don’t see why a blog could not be written by journalists and be considered journalism (as opposed to the moderator last night, who apparently has a journalism background but creates content for other purposes).

  • @serena

    This is great and your discussion last night was terrific even if you didn’t get to finish your thought. The single biggest difference, to me, between bloggers and journalists is that journalists are paid by their publications to write and bloggers are paid, if at all, by brands or through advertising. When a publication pays you to write, you are paid to research and qualify your article with facts – in return, they expect articles relevant to all their readers, and inbound traffic based on a kick ass headline. Paid journalists are frequently asked to be neutral in their writings. On the other hand, bloggers are never neutral! And with blogger income coming from pay for play writing OR advertising, bloggers are frequently left with no other choice except to shill for a brand, OR to write link bait stories to increase their own traffic so much the ads pay for their time. Both which could potentially lower their credibility, something journalists rarely have to face. Never, ever will the two meet.

    • The Rebel Chick Jenn

      I agree that the biggest difference is that journalists are hired through a publication…and as bloggers, we ARE that publication, so we operate any way we see fit (as long as we abide by the FTC of course).

  • Yoli M.

    After listening to that last night, I tweeted this:

    Also, we’re like big Op-Eds. We hear/see the news, but we say how we feel and have community support.

    • Gabi

      I completely agree. All my blog articles on my personal site are op/ed pieces, not news. For my business blog, they are a mix of op/ed and educational. So not all bloggers are trying to be journalists.

  • Harold Gardner

    Seems to me that bloggers want the protections and benefits of journalists without the responsibilities. I think that is the rub.

    • JessicaGottlieb

      What makes you think that Harold?

      • Harold Gardner

        First is the desire for access that has been reserved to journalists. Bloggers wear press passes to events. I have seen this in the tech space and in sports. Second is access to journalistic legal protections. In a number of cases bloggers have looked to protections traditionally afforded journalists.

  • scottbergmn

    I think I agree with Jay, in that journalism takes many forms, and a blog can certainly fall into that category You do make some great points though Jessica.

  • The JackB

    One of the challenges is that many bloggers don’t take responsibility for checking facts before they write their posts.

    • Jay Fleischman

      As we’ve seen lately, there have been times when journalists fail to check facts either.

      • The JackB

        True but bloggers tend not to face the same consequences which makes many more lax about fact checking.