Blogs: The new literary journalism?

Hi everyone from bucolic PEI —

I was checking my email and came across this link from James McPherson’s Media & Politics blog — passed along from Norm Sims. In the post, McPherson recounts a discussion with Norm at the AEJMC convention.

It’s an interesting analysis by McPherson, who examines the concept of whether “blogging might actually ‘save’ the 1960s-style literary journalism.”

“Save?” I don’t know about “saving” — perhaps blogging is part of a continuing evolution? Regardless, I think McPherson begins to hone in on the right points at the end of his post.

The better question might be: Can blogging and/or Web presentation be a tool for doing literary/narrative journalism? Well, sure. Why not? In fact many major sites out there are already doing projects along these lines —,, and have all used blogging, multimedia and web presentation to present narrative storylines. The key to their successes is seeing blogging, Web presentation and multimedia as tools to present stories.

And, what about individual bloggers?

Pick your flavor of political blogger — but what do we call the body of work by bloggers like Joshua Micah Marshall and Markos Moulitsas? And, more to the point, does it really matter? Literary journalists moved the ball forward in the 1960s and it was an important development on the journalistic evolutionary scale. But that was then and this is now. Blogging is a tool and a form and it’s continuing to grow and evolve but one thing is for certain — it’s not going to die.

One problem is that there is still a good deal of prejudice out there, and McPherson hints at it a little bit — against the idea of blogging and bloggers. Yes, there are many, many bloggers out there writing about many, many issues. Some are legitimate, some not so much.

But at its base, blogs, multimedia and Web presentation are tools. Once everyone gets past the anti-intellectual bias against new media, then the possibilities are endless.




About journalismprof

Steve joined the journalism faculty at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in August 2007 and has been working to incorporate multimedia across the curriculum. Since arriving at UMass, Steve has developed three courses modeled after his multimedia journalism course. The courses allow students to work in teams in a newsroom-like environment where they work on packages -- using video, audio and photos to tell stories. He is also working with students on developing, a news Web site staffed completely by students. Steve has more than 25 years of experience as an editor and reporter for print and online publications, including 10 as an editor at He also edits part-time for with the NFL and college football network.
This entry was posted in Business of Journalism, Convergence, innovation, Multimedia, Norm Sims and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Blogs: The new literary journalism?

  1. James McPherson says:

    Hi Steve, and thanks for the mention. As it happens, I had just posted a brief follow-up to my previous piece–based on an e-mail from Norm–earlier today.
    By the way, didn’t I meet you at Poynter in February? My blog was a direct result of that workshop.

  2. Deehan says:

    Norm is right that there’s little to no chance anything but an established organization with deep pockets can facilitate Literary Journalism. Bloggers without access cannot immerse, only comment. I’m curious how the increasing ability to produce video online, and the dropping price of digitally capturing footage, can turn costly documentaries into lost budget webisodes. Excellent documentaries share a lot with traditional literary journalism, and they depend on deep subjects, limitless access and endless footage.
    As for online content becoming the primary product of news orgs, I will point you towards friend and former colleague Gene Koo’s recent struggle with canceling his deadtree Globe subscription, and the followup.

  3. David says:


    (I encourage non-faculty guest comment-posters–and maybe someday we can post this in a box on protocol–to identify themselves and include their email addresses. I see that one’s email address is in the comment- identifying box, but it doesn’t get carried over to the posting line. Maybe we can make this automatic. Am I nitpicking? I don’t think so. Unlike much of the blogosphere, I’m hoping this will be a forum where people are accountable for what they post. )

    My comments:

    Low-cost doesn’t guarantee anything. Excellent documentaries, like long-form journalism, also depend on audiences–people with the intellectual background, the frame of reference, time and inclination, to be engaged, and for a while, not an instant. Who has the time? Who has the patience? Who is off Facebook, or not blogging, or playing video games, long enough to pay attention? And where do they look?

    I think good journalism, of any kind, depends not only on access–it requires resources ($ and human), experience, traditions/standards of excellence, ethics and accountability, and careful teamwork and guidance. (Am I leaving something out?) These things (a proven track record) WIN access.

    On all these measures, newspapers still carry the day (for all their weaknesses and declining quality). Bloggers who say access is overly restricted imply they have don’t have to earn it.

    Nor do I see much attempt TO earn it. To be considered journalists, bloggers need to do some reporting, and make an effort to do more than play gotcha with the Big Old Style Tree-Killing Media (which IS a useful thing, don’t get me wrong) or with presidential candidates by hiding in bushes, but to work with/compete with ALL journalists to advance the story (whatever it is).
    Argue with me if you will, but meta-commentary on the news is not reporting.

    BTW, I’m still waiting to encounter –help me please! –EXAMPLES of Pulitzer-Prize-worthy journalism in the form of multimedia packages and blogs. To simply assert that they CAN be done is not enough. Who’s doing it? This is the place to post examples!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s