When Scribes Collide

A panel of journalists and bloggers sat down to learn what they could teach each other now the online world has made them bedfellows. Georgina Galbraith reports.

The “Editors Talk” was chaired by Michael Gawenda, former editor of The Age and senior research fellow at the Centre for Advanced Journalism.

The panel, which included the editor of the New Yorker, Henry Finder, the editor of the Global Mail, Lauren Martin, ABC Director of News, Kate Torney and bloggers Eden Riley and Phoebe Montague, agreed that the line between journalism and blogging had become blurred.

But Mr Finder said he felt people knew the difference between opinion and what they get from the international section of the paper.

“Hopefully the convergence of journalism and blogs won’t come at the expense of truth and accuracy,” he said.

“People turn to blogs for a different thing.

“From a blog often what we want is the snarp, the attitude the pirouetting - the subjectivity.”

The freedom to be subjective works for bloggers like Eden Riley. 

She said a blog was like a mound of clay.

“It can be anything you want it to be.”

Her blog, Edenland, started as a personal diary and this year was voted “Australia’s top blog” by the Sydney Writers Festival.

Eden has just got back from Niger in Africa where she was sent by World Vision to report on the West African food crisis.

Earlier in the year Julia Gillard invited Eden to morning tea along with other influential bloggers.

Before she went Eden asked her readers what questions she should put to the PM.

Michael Gawenda said this desire of the audience to take a part in the process was not a new media initiative – rather it has “been going on for years with talkback radio”.

Kate Torney, the Director News for the ABC News, said the mainstream media need to be “less territorial about audiences and acknowledge that no one owns the space or the authority”.

“We need to accept that conversations are happening in a range of places.”

Lauren Martin, the Editor of the Global Mail, said “we are all equal on twitter”.

One area that the journalist and the blogger are equal is the law.

Phoebe Montague, The fashion blogger behind Lady Melbourne said she used her personal ethics in publishing the material on her blog.

She said this included a commitment to telling the truth even when that meant reviewing products she had been paid to write about.

Phoebe said her audience kept her in check and if she got something wrong, even a typo, they would let her know immediately.  

Both Phoebe and Eden said they were unaware until the panel that they were liable for anyone publishing defamatory comments on their blog.

But Eden knew exactly what to do with the information.

“I’m going home to blog about that.”