Saturday, December 23, 2006

Preliminary data on the influence of blogs on foreign journalists covering China

Via JOHO the blog, I read Rebecca Mackinnon's preliminary survey results of about 70 journalists (out of about 400) who cover China. The respondents work for news organizations headquartered in the U.S., UK, Singapore, Russia, Qatar, Poland, Italy, Hong Kong, Germany, France, Finland, Canada, and Australia.

I've extracted the main headers of her findings:
  • 90% follow blogs
  • 41% have been following blogs for 1-2 years, and 22% have been doing so for 2 years or more
  • Most respondents find blogs useful for story ideas and information - In fact they find blogs significantly more useful than CCTV, CNN, BBC (radio & TV), overseas forums, BBS & chatrooms, or Chinese radio.
  • Most find blogs useful to spot emerging stories and as a general source of story ideas
  • ESWN and Danwei appear to be substantially more important to correspondents than other English-language China-focused blogs.
  • Blogs are somewhat more useful to foreign correspondents than BBS and chatrooms
  • Most follow Chinese-language blogs
  • Most believe it is impossible to answer question of whether blogs are more or less "reliable" compared to other media
What interested me was the issue of the credibility of blogs, and why journalists find blogs useful. The respondents' comments were particularly insightful (refer to the paragraphs after the header, "Credibility Questions").

It seemed to me the journalists follow blogs as how they follow their own preferred sources for leads/ tip-offs, opinions and perspectives. As quoted:
Blogs are great for watching topical issues emerge and get dissected, and for aggregating news from a variety of other sources, but they don't necessarily verify the information they serve up. But blogs shouldn't be expected to do this -- it is up to the end-user of the information to decide what to do with it, including verifying sources and facts.

... it's more opinion and commentary, and if you follow a blog over time you get to know who generally knows what they're talking about.

... i wouldn't cite a blog on spot news, for example. they're often more just to stay plugged in in a general way.
More examples to show that it's mainstream media "WITH" bloggers, rather than "against".

Rebecca surmises (on the issue of credibility/ reliability of blogs) that "journalists approach blogs as raw sources. Thus asking whether blogs are reliable is just as useless as asking whether people are reliable".

How is all this relevant to librarians?
Librarians, when searching for Internet resources to answer enquiries, would inevitably come across blogs. They are trained, and may also train other library users, on how to go evaluating websites. Good references can be found here, here and here.

At face value, blogs may not warrant their own separate evaluation guidelines. The guidelines for evaluating websites would still apply to evaluating blog content, e.g. "What are the author's credentials?", "How is the author a reliable/ accurate source?", "When was it published".

But I wonder if we should elaborate on those guidelines in the context of blogs. Again, to cite Rebecca:
Each tipoff or story idea coming from any human source must be judged in a very specific context: Does that person have any real expertise in the subject at hand? Is his/her knowledge first, second, third or fourth hand? Does he/she bear a grudge or conflict of interest? What is his/her agenda in telling you the information? Etc.
The above seems like sensible guidelines for librarians evaluating blogs.

  1. How do librarians treat blogs that they come across as part of the web search (in answering enquiries)?
  2. Do librarians tend to avoid citing blogs, even if the enquiry is more opinion-based (rather than requiring facts)?
  3. Do librarians evaluate the relative merits of the blog content rather than whether it is a blog per se?
  4. Should we have additional evaluation guidelines for blogs?

To other librarians reading this, what's your opinions/ experience on the above?

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  1. Anonymous11:15 pm

    I wonder how do librarians treat information from blogs nowadays. I'll forward your post to my fellow librarian friends and see what they say. By the way, I was a former librarian myself and I am still curious on how this subject should be dealt. Looking forward to your findings.

  2. Anonymous5:36 am

    Librarians are happy and prospering with blogs. See my post on Blog as a teaching tool.This is a comment to your friend who just left a comment.

    Happy holidays.
    This is not spam comment.
    I wish to share something with you as a librarian who believes in sharing knowledge 24 X 7. My 2007 resolution is a friendly deal to get more comments at my blog and promptly reciprocate.
    Best wishes for 2007.

  3. Hey Jewelle, I'm not doing any serious data collection anytime soon, so don't hold your breath! :)

    Hello Mohamed Taher, if the post is relevant, feel free to include the permalink. I noticed you've got several blogs so I'm not sure which is the post you were referring to. If you include a link of this post to yours, it will appear as a "posts that link here" (i.e. trackback). Or as I said, just leave the url here. If it's relevant to the discussion, it won't be deleted. Cheers.


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