Are blogger reviewers better than journalists?

I once read that any such question in the title of an article means that the answer is no. That’s true but only in the sense that the answer isn’t yes. I don’t think it’s even the right question but let me very quickly tell you why.

I was looking for a review of Naomi Wolf’s book Vagina and instead I found a bunch of highly politicised campaigns against Wolf and her pro-Assange stance. The newspapers hated her because they hated Assange and Wikileaks. I looked for blogger reviews but the book had only been pre-released to professional media bodies. Us bloggers had to wait. Even highly educated, rational and academic bloggers had to wait. It was these latter types that I wanted to tell me whether there was any merit to the book. Not the politicised journalists.

I decided then and there that book bloggers had no vested interests so were better than journalists.

I was then asked to review a restaurant’s new tasting menu and so were a few other bloggers and Bristol Bites who I don’t really consider a blogger but a professional foodie. She does it for a living. Some other bloggers did it mainly for fun and their reviews were more free and utterly uncensored. They were at times crass, badly spelled and just a poor reflection of blogging reviews.

At least that’s what my inner critic told me. Because with blogging, unlike with journalism at a newspaper or magazine where your livelihood depends on what you write, there is no one to judge what you should publish but yourself.

There’s no sub to check the spelling of the post you wrote in the spare couple of hours between sleep and work. There’s no editor to guide you in what’s acceptable and there’s no management to take the flak when you screw up. Bloggers probably haven’t read McNae’s media law and aren’t too fussed about being sued because hardly anyone is reading.

4 Responses to Are blogger reviewers better than journalists?

  1. “Bloggers vs. Journalists” is always an interesting topic – especially amongst the food blogging community! While there are plenty of professional food critics out there, some of them seem to use their “reviews” to highlight their own senses of self-importance, while others resent the fact that bloggers are doing essentially the same as them, but without any training or regulation.

    Many bloggers, on the other hand, feel that journalists who travel to review places not in their home towns can’t accurately assess a place in the context of its wider surroundings, while others lament the fact that journos aren’t required – as bloggers appear to be – to disclose any freebies or discounts.

    When it comes to negatives about bloggers, I know a huge number who only started their blogs because they thought they’d be able to get freebies – and who shamelessly approach companies, offering reviews in return for free products, despite their command of the English language being poor and their traffic being shocking.

    Journos have legal teams behind them, as well as editors who can sense-check reviews and remove any potentially libellous comments. Bloggers are self-policed – and often not very well, either. Many don’t understand how careful they have to be from a legal point of view – and, worryingly, there was recently a case of a French food blogger who was used by a restaurant owner as the high ranking of her negative review damaged his business. Many also don’t understand the risk of Google penalisation involved in publishing sponsored posts with follow instead of no-follow links – it’s a complete minefield!

    That’s why I always try and highlight the fact that my reviews are simply based on my own personal opinion, avoid criticising for the sake of criticising and try not to post anything designed to be sensationalist or inflammatory. Yes, these sorts of posts can increase traffic – but they can also destroy your reputation and risk trouble with all sorts of people!

  2. Pingback: Bloggers vs. journalists: the debate rages on… | Bristol Bites

  3. This is an interesting topic! About two years ago, a book critic once referred to book bloggers as “leeches” and said that our reviews are as valuable as bathroom graffiti. He sounded pretty insecure to me. Book reviews were once something that only traditional journalists could do. Now, anyone can review a book, and those who do it well, develop followings. That must be scary to someone whose livelihood depends on a newspaper or magazine.

    • Magazines and newspapers barely bother with books these days – apart from a few notable exceptions! The Guardian in the UK tends to publish single paragraphs for most reviews. I find trusted and known bloggers to be much better than the professional media when it comes to books. Some are of course as bad as each other, I’ve read spoilers in the press and on blogs – one for Gone Girl while the writer didn’t even realise that was the spoiler.

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