I just figured out why I was so confused at BloggerCon last week, in Jay Rosen's session on "Is Blogging Journalism?" Maybe that's not even what he was asking, but it seems like it was what everyone was talking about. Well I just got back from seeing "The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," and now I understand. Asking if blogging is journalism is like asking: are movies journalism? Are dreams journalism? Is life journalism? I mean, why should it be?
Sure, blogging is publishing. And journalism is part of publishing. But so are novels. And we don't ask of novels that they follow the rules of journalism. We don't say novels are inferior to journalism because they're not properly "sourced" or because their authors are not "trained" in the practices of journalism. That would be silly. I do know some people who never read novels, because they think that anything but nonfiction is a waste of time. But I know more people who believe that the real truth, the real writing, the real craft lies in novels. I know more journalists who strive to become novelists than the other way around.
The point is that blogs (like most novels and films) concern themselves not with the public agenda (which is the realm of journalism) but the social agenda, the important question of: what is life like? What is consciousness like? And this was the subject of "Eternal Sunshine." What is memory? What is love? Why are people so charming when we fall in love with them, and so annoying when we live with them for a while? What's bravery? What's cowardice? Will the boy get the girl? Is it cool to have blue hair?
What I see in Blogville is a real divide between the kinds of blogs, almost as big a divide as between fiction and non-fiction, but without the labels. There are the serious blogs, which concern themselves with politics and breaking stories, with Bush and Iraq and the FCC, and for this kind of blog the question "Are blogs journalism?" makes some sense.
And then there are the blogs that concern themselves primarily with the vague, fleeting ideas and images we understand as life. This is why on days like today, when the weather is as sublime as it was awful during the winter, I post a picture of the view from my front porch. Or when Noah and his pals are being silly, pretending to meditate, I snap that and post it. Some of these slice-of-life blogs are marvelous for their writing. I think especially of The Prop and Pops, whose words are so idiosyncratic and precise that I sometimes think they are 21st century reincarnations of Mark Twain and Will Rogers. And then there's Jo, whose spirit is irrepressible and who covers her life as thoroughly as a wire service covers the news, updating us 8, 10, a dozen times a day.
But even though I admire a few for their brilliant wordsmithing, I believe that it's the aggregation of all these fleeting interpretations of reality that's important. To borrow from a popular meme -- what are the top 10 songs on my iPod today? -- I think that blogs, linked by happenstance and many small communities, which transcend space and even time, together form an altogether new art form not unlike those shuffled iPod playlists. An art form that resembles mosaic. Or quilts. A communal form, joining thousands of little snippets of reality in an constantly-updated global quest for meaning -- and a few laughs.