Conventional wisdom holds that bloggers are parasites, stealing content that reporters painstakingly dug up with their blood, sweat and tears, using all the skills they earned from journalism school and years in the trenches.
As a journalism major and former reporter, I can understand why conventional wisdom held this theory dear. Every professional sitting in the newsroom had to think, "I'm getting upstaged by some random dude sitting at home in his pajamas?"
But a new academic study explodes this myth, and public relations pros should take notice.
You can't feed the mainstream media -- newspapers, TV and radio -- and expect it to naturally filter down to all the blogs.
The blogs are doing original reporting. They won't simply go off whatever the mainstream media is doing.
The paper that explodes this myth is by Brendan Watson, a former journalist who's now Ph.D. student at the University of North Carolina.
Here's the key passage from the paper, which Watson presented at the Association for Education in Journalism & Mass Communication Conference:
This study of 100 blogs found that contrary to media assertions and prior research, local public affairs bloggers do not rely on newspapers for a majority of their sources.
Bloggers in this study were more likely to use original sources and original reporting than rely on media sources, particularly when writing about local topics (e.g. historic preservation) the news media frequently ignore.
OK. Bloggers are turning into reporters with their own sources. What's that mean for public figures and public relations?
1) Keep better track of blogs.
It's hard enough to maintain a current media list, with reporters and editors changing jobs and the media landscape constantly changing with mergers and partnerships.
But blogs are becoming more important. It's time to get systematic about tracking them.
2) Find out what content blogs want and give it to them.
With the mainstream media, sending out content is easier. Somebody at in the newsroom handles that beat, whatever the topic.
This is a tougher job with blogs. They specialize more. They're more local.
3) Break more news via blogs.
I've noticed that blogs are more like radio or TV stations than newspapers, which are printed once a day.
Truly active news blogs post all day. And if there's a popular blog that covers your area, it's often smart to break the news via that blogger than through the mainstream media.
That's because bloggers are often a quicker way to get the word out. And things don't always filter down from the mainstream media to blogs. Stories filter up, too. Reporters and editors don't follow every blog. They do follow big ones, and specialized ones, and top-quality ones.
There's another reason to break news via good blogs: they'll break tough stories that the mainstream media won't touch.
They'll also spend the time to drill down on a single tough issue, writing multiple posts -- and long posts -- about a topic that really interests them. On a blog, there's no problem writing long. There's no news hole to worry about, and that's useful when you've got a tough or complicated topic.