Journalistic norms for bloggers

I thought I would quickly advertise a recent paper called ““The truth is not in the middle”: Journalistic norms of climate change bloggers. It’s by Christel van Eck, Bob Mulder, and Art DeWulf, who are also involved in the survey of blog audiences.

The paper included interviews with a range of blog authors about what journalistic norms they typically try to satisfy. It included myself and a number of others who will be familiar to most of my readers. The interviews suggested that most bloggers regarded themselves as satisfying many of the journalistic norms, but maybe saw them somewhat differently to their traditional meanings.

Personally, I’d hadn’t given this a great deal of thought. I mostly see myself as a scientist who writes a blog, rather than as a journalist. I think I have some relevant expertise, so can – at times – be talking with some authority, but I do try to make clear when that’s the case, or when I’m simply expressing some views about something I may not fully understand. I think it’s important to be honest and, if possible, reasonable, but I don’t feel any obligation to provide some kind of balance, especially when it comes to scientific views that I regard as wrong.

Mostly I regard this blog as a space where I can express my views and where others can comment if they’re happy to satisfy the moderation and comments policies. I’m not really providing a service, and – apart from learning a lot – I don’t particularly benefit from writing this. I mostly try to write about what I’m currently interested in, but I am pleased if others also find it of interest (although this isn’t what specifically motivates my post writing).

Anyway, the paper is open access so if you would like to learn more about whether or not bloggers regard themselves as satisfying journalistic norms, you can read it.

“The truth is not in the middle”: Journalistic norms of climate change bloggers by Christel van Eck, Bob Mulder and Art Dewulf.

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23 Responses to Journalistic norms for bloggers

  1. brigittenerlich says:

    Totally agree. I’d be surprised any blogger thought about journalistic norms when writing a post. It’s normally something one is interested in, wants to get off one’s chest, wants an opinion on etc. As you say, one tries to be open and honest and clear (and I often fail regarding the latter ‘norm’), but balance… not really. Perhaps a bit, as one tries not to offend?

  2. Perhaps a bit, as one tries not to offend?

    I try, but I don’t always succeed 🙂

  3. angech says:

    An interesting take that should rattle a few cages. Both,
    “The researchers found that there are no differences in journalistic norms across the divide between climate sceptics and the climate mainstream, except of the fact that they operationalize some norms.”
    “ Beyond the traditional journalistic norms, climate change bloggers identify contextualization, clarity, decency, and particularly truth as important journalistic norms. Truth is understood as a multi-dimensional norm comprising objectivity, transparency, and honesty. No differences are identified between norms supported by climate sceptical and climate mainstream bloggers, but each group operationalizes the norms differently.”
    This is what attracts me back to this site.
    I feel I am on the other side of the Moebis band even though it only has one side.
    I can sense not only the passion but the desire to see the truth in the scientific puzzles of climate change.
    Yet at some level a switch is flipped. Truth remains the same but the observation and communication of that truth seems to change. Everyone believes that it is so obvious that they cannot understand how anyone can have an opposite view presented by the same facts.
    What is worse is how hurt we feel by others not accepting our views and how angry or disappointed we get by not only their Inability to see but also the denigration of our views and persons that usually accompanies rejection.
    No way round it.
    The only comments that might help either side closer is to say no one gets a free lunch. If something is too good to be true then on balance it is not true. Not every fact or study has to 100% validate ones world view. If it does all the time you are not living in the real world. Still, if it makes you happy, skeptic or warmist, stay happy and let the others have a little happiness too.

  4. David B. Benson says:


  5. For science blogs, i’d argue that scientific norms are more important. It seems pretty clear to me that those are not uniformly accepted on climate blogs (e.g. accusations of fraud, abuse, evasion etc.).

  6. billbedford says:

    @angech: “Truth remains the same but the observation and communication of that truth seems to change. Everyone believes that it is so obvious that they cannot understand how anyone can have an opposite view presented by the same facts.”

    ‘The truth’ is always obvious? no?

  7. “The truth is not in the middle”

    Interesting choice of title.
    Sounds like confirmation bias from the get go.

  8. TE,
    Are you referring to your comment or to the article being discussed in the post?

  9. I looked up journalistic norms at wikipedia, I have to say diligence is conspicuous by its absence on climate skeptic blogs. They frequently promulgate canards or assertions that even the most cursory of investigation would reveal to be false, etc. Salby wow (which is also an example where there was a lack of accountability, where the author of the blog article refuses to discuss whether the article was incorrect)

  10. Willard says:

    > Sounds like confirmation bias from the get go.

    It always does, doesn’t it?


    Sometimes I think journalism norms are less real than the Gremlin norms for econometricians:

  11. I eagerly await the recommended further research into how these shared norms translate into actual blog posts.

  12. Steven Mosher says:

    The data is deemed confidential.
    So these bloggers are interviewed. They support honesty and open data.

    The paper based on their interviews is closed.

    Did I read that right

  13. Steven,
    You’re welcome to ask me questions about whether or not I follow journalistic norms when writing blog posts 😀

  14. Climate sceptic and mainstream bloggers support similar journalistic norms.

    If you would ask them they would also claim to support similar scientific norms, if not to be the better scientists. That is the limitation of surveys, especially of people who find telling the truth as important as Trump.

    So I have to agree with Tom:

    I eagerly await the recommended further research into how these shared norms translate into actual blog posts.

  15. “– apart from learning a lot – I don’t particularly benefit from writing this.”

    It’s the exact opposite for me on my blog. I don’t learn anything per se by writing it but benefit because everything I write on that blog will eventually go into a future manuscript. So it’s essentially a first draft of contents so I won’t get inundated later. The learning is from the thinking and problem-solving elsewhere, while the writing is basically a book-keeping chore — necessary but past the actual fun stage.

  16. David B. Benson says:

    Many an essay online about

    Writing is Fun.

  17. Steven Mosher says:

    Sorry I posted during takeoff

    “The DATA is closed.”

    I just found this funny.

    Seemed like a good paper. Nothing too shocking.

  18. Greg Robie says:

    @-angech, I experienced your Moebis band* metaphor as prescient regarding the substance of that comment. I am licking my [proverbial] wounds from recent summary moderations. But isn’t trying to grasp what moderation and/or comment guidelines I violated a door to at least seeing, if not learning, more about the complexity of both – & to the degree that can be sufficiently separated – physical and social systems? I.B.I.D. the referenced “failure to communicate” (for any fellow “Cool Hand Luke” fans).

    Anders’ Blog is pretty cool. And it is both the moderation and the motivated reasoning of our host that makes it so. If the host was not an astrophysicist with the psychology and biases such a field of professional study would tend to engender, isn’t it likely this digital space would be both hot and useless?

    The tension and the passion you articulate is part of what attracts me as well. And perhaps this points to why blogging is not journalism. At least on this side of the pond ‘journalism’ is constrained by a “for profit” set of social dictums. When, a generation ago, I was in my letter-to-the-editor phase, the local paper’s editor explained to me that communication required writing to a sixth grade level of psychological and intellectual development. As an aside, and as a consequence of the iPhone and [a]social media-being-the-message dynamic that has unfolded since then, wouldn’t that advice now be to aim for a third grade iteration of these constraints? (& isn’t the micro-blogging of Twitter rapidly going pre-verbal … with computer modeling of our Homo narcissum’s infantilism informing its bott ‘community’ involvement? Or, the echo-chamber social dynamic is a feature, not a force, of the species relative to where it is in its evolution.

    What I was taught in the early ’60s was the socially destructive Yellow Journalism of the 1890s seems to be cycling back. What that journalism and today’s MSM journalism have in common is an economic need to effect a profitable business model. Doesn’t this cycle suggest that the ‘oppositional’ passions, and the tensions this perception engenders, starkly define the human condition as … well … dictated by motivated reasoning and socially crafted homeostases that conspire to hide this? Living in the tension of this possibility has lead me down some pretty interesting rabbit borrows. The deeper I go, the more I discover that they [seem to] converge. I posit this means that “off topic” moderation is, as stated, potentially hard to consistently get right; that what is conspiratorial could also be a more inclusive insight. For better – or worse – the subjective [in temporal time spans!] reigns supreme! 😉

    BTW, @-ATTP (& this is none of my business) is your share of ad revenues from this blog work enough to order take-out for the family once a month? I assume keeping this blog gong precludes the time to actually go out for dinner! 😉 I note that this last anniversary of it did not include the lack of clarity of why you keep it going. Is economics trumping something?

    * the Moebis band that informs my appreciation of the metaphor is a highly polished solid sterling silver one of about 7″ in diameter, an inch and a half wide, and – for aesthetic and reasons defined by physics – about a quarter of an inch thick. I coveted it when I was in its presence. I had to reminded myself that, besides not being able to afford it, “desiring is better than having” (Spock quote) … like the hassle of keeping it shiny! And this hassle, too, might be considered a metaphor for my attraction to this blog; a desire to delude myself that seeking truth together, within the constraints of our significantly [enough!] being an irrational species, is ONLY a matter of words. =)

    sNAILmALEnotHAIL …but pace’n myself

    life is for learning so all my failures must mean that I’m wicked smart


  19. Willard says:

    FWIW, the fall of the abstract:

    As such, this research on climate change bloggers and their journalistic norms is crucial for a fuller understanding of current climate change communications.

    seems to fail some norm for academic writing, as “this research” could refer to the paper itself, and one does not simply brag about the cruciality of one’s own research.

  20. Steven Mosher says:

    ah good catch willard.

  21. ecoquant says:

    Current journalist practice eschews citation. Giving references and, where appropriate, inline quotes is for me critical to the substance of a technical blog. There’s even a case for blogs which have re-derivations from principles being rated higher than ones which cite, but that can occupy a lot of space.

    Beyond that, I never thought blogs were intended for mass audience consumption. Surely, that was not their original purpose as a construct. So it’s not clear that meeting stylistic or methodological standards isn’t wholly negative, either squelching the individuality of the blogger, or taming the message for saleability.

    Maybe I’m lucky, but I never sought to make my own blog popular, and I pay for it entirely by myself. So I don’t need funds. I mostly write it to get some technical writing itch out of my system, and to have a place to toss semi-articulate thoughts, the best being technical, so I can refer to them in other discussions. Sometimes I use it to respond to matters where the doors get closed on me. Sometimes, close to the original purpose, it serves as a means of chronicling things which are important to me which I experience.

    But if posts lack citations, there isn’t a lot of interest which is substantial in a blog, in my opinion. They are not in depth analyses like you’ll find at the London Review of Books, those being great, in my opinion.

    I guess I like to have the opportunity to do a technical orgy online, now and then.

  22. Steven Mosher says:

    very cool eco.

  23. Pingback: On why I write this blog | hypergeometric

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