Mathew Ingram is a technology journalist and currently Communities Editor for Toronto’s Globe and Mail. He’s also a veteran blogger (at mathewingram.com), which makes his take on journalism in the age of Twitter, social media policies for workers, and the future of journalism, blogging, and the web a must read.
You were in the forefront of print journalists who made extensive use of blogging and the web. Has your perspective on the role of journalist-bloggers changed over the years?
It has changed, to the extent that I used to think only certain bloggers would benefit from having blogs, and I now believe that the blogging process and publishing style and ethics apply to virtually every kind of reporter or journalist.
The Washington Post recently announced its “social media policy,” effectively restricting the ability of its staff to express opinions on the web. What’s your take on this policy, and how far should news organizations go in overseeing the social media publishing of its staff?
I think like most employee-behavior policies, the Washington Post policy goes way too far in saying what staff shouldn’t do with social media but doesn’t spend any time talking about what they should do. The reality is that most of what the Washington Post and other newspapers are afraid of can be taken care of by simply saying “don’t be stupid online.”
Do you believe that your blogging / online presence gains you access to people and stories that you would otherwise not be able to reach?
I think it definitely does. There’s a much greater chance that I am going to be connected to someone who, even if they can’t help me, probably is connected to someone who can.
What’s the best story that you’ve covered in the last year or so?
I actually haven’t covered that many stories in the past year because I’ve been busy as the new Communities Editor for the Globe and Mail, which means training staff in social media, etc.
What’s your take on professional journalists who make money through their blogging activities?
I think provided those journalists aren’t doing things that are in competition with their employer, they should be entitled to do whatever they want.
Do you see a future where journalists will be “one-man media operations,” supporting themselves primarily through blogging?
I’m not sure most journalists will be able to support themselves just blogging — I still think they will probably need some kind of support system or network to help sell ads, etc.
What has your role as Communities Editor for the Toronto Globe and Mail taught you about how people were expressing themselves on the web in 2009?
What it has taught me is that social media is rapidly becoming mainstream and that the implications of that are possibly greater than many people realize.
Does/should the role of the journalist change when using a microblogging platform such as Twitter versus the more “traditional” blog? Is journalism an appropriate term to use when talking about microblogging?
I don’t think the role of a journalist really changes regardless of what tool he or she is using — but, that said, Twitter and other similar tools are much more like a conversation. So there are likely to be the same kinds of behavior that apply to a regular conversation, which is natural and should be expected.
What’s your advice for journalists who are looking to make a serious go at blogging?
Start doing it, and learn as you go.
Is the explosion of blogging and online publishing good for journalism?
I think it’s great for journalism. I think the more people there are writing, and the easier it is to publish writing of all kinds, the more likely we are to find the information we need and the more likely we are to get a clearer picture of an event or a situation.
What does the future look like for journalism and the web?
I think it looks very much like the present, only more so — more people doing it, more distributed, in more ways and with more success. I think we are likely to see some interesting experiments in online journalism become major players, such as Politico or ProPublica, and there are probably going to be more.