I think it’s been really interesting to read the ongoing discussion about weblogs as journalism by Mike Sanders and Terence Molson and others. The debate seems to center around whether or not weblogs will supplant Big Media or whether they will serve as more of a compliment to Journalism (with a capital J). What resonates with me is the Virginia Postrel quote prior to this post that talks about the narrowing, filtering effect that weblogs can have, and that’s precisely the way I see them being used in my journalism classes at least. Students, journalists or not, need to learn new research skills to work with new media. They need to learn to judge sources and glean relevance, not just accept the first thing they see. It’s the old “at least a book had an editor” issue for teachers these days. How can you tell what’s good research and what’s not on the Internet?
The other piece of this is that there is so much to know and to find. We’ve never been faced with the amount of information that we have access to today, and that makes it even more imperative to teach those information literacy skills to kids. Lazy research is more dangerous than ever. I’m thinking one answer to that is weblogs.
Consider what a student can create with a weblog in terms of research. A central clearinghouse for all ideas relevant to a particular subject. An audience for filtering that information into what is most important and relevant. A metacognitive thought log of the hows and whys of collection and selection of the materials that get included. To publicize these sites raises the stakes, increases responsibility (which is the other incredibly wonderful thing about the Internet…instant publishing and exposure). Think of the applications for expository writing, where teachers can follow the research. I swear, if someone could come up with a way to not only add posts but update links easily, think of the pages kids could create.
Are weblogs Journalism? Not yet, for I do agree that Journalists have a harder job than weblog journalists. But in some way, with this narrowing of subject, weblogs can serve a useful purpose for finding the truth and disseminating it.