Bloggers are parasites — so what?

I kind of missed this one a few days ago, there being so many other things to blog about — YouTube and the BBC being the main one, I think — but Nick Carr’s latest post about bloggers and parasites sparked my interest again. I know that issues from more than two days ago are effectively ancient history as far as the blogosphere is concerned, but indulge me.

parasite.jpgAs far as I can tell, this particular round of commentary about bloggers being “a parasitic medium” got started with a piece by Robert Niles at the Online Journalism Review, in which he asked several online media pros what they thought. Journalism professor Rich Gordon, for example, had one of my favourite responses, in which he said that:

“There is a long tradition *within journalism* of publishing and broadcasting the work of people whose primary contribution to discourse is opinion and analysis.

Bloggers fall squarely within this tradition. They are parasitic only if your definition of journalism consists only of original reporting.”

An excellent point. There are all kinds of people working for mainstream media outlets — and not just columnists, editorial writers, opinion writers and analysts, but often reporters as well — who base a lot of what they do on the raw material provided by others. With reporters, it is often the work of wire services such as Reuters or Bloomberg, which tend to get a lot less credit for their role than they probably should in many cases.

Nick Carr takes a long — and inimitably Carr-like– look at this issue, and admits he used to throw the “bloggers are parasites” criticism around too, until he realized that parasites can be a good thing. Now, he says he is happy to be one. True to form, he throws in a long quote from a book about London in 1834, and a passage from Socrates in the comments. Classy.

Meanwhile, Jason at Webomatica thinks that the relationship between bloggers and journalism is symbiotic, and so does Brian Chin at Seattle PI, and I would go along with that. If journalists aren’t watching and learning from the blogosphere, then they are missing a key ingredient in their diet.