Personal journalism, the future of online reporting

• February 1, 2007 • Comments (2)

Howard Owens, Director of Digital Publishing at Gatehouse Media, came up with a new term about a week ago – personal journalism. I’ve been meaning to comment on it, and today he posted one more term which he says is the opposite: Definitive-voice journalism.

Here’s how he sees personal journalism.

Personal Journalism is just as ethical as old-school public journalism. It still values facts, fairness, truth telling and good reporting. It’s just that personal journalism is written differently. It is written from one person, a person we can identify and identify with, for one person. The byline is more than a name under a headline in Personal Journalism. It is the persona and the personality. Personal journalists do more than report the story. They let us see at least a little about who they are, what they believe, what drives them and what they find important. If a personal journalist has a bias, we know it. That is part of the truth-telling tradition all journalists should endorse, but only personal journalists make it a practice.

Personal Journalism is shareable because people like to share what has touched them in a direct, intimate way, be it a song, a video or a good story.

Personal Journalists let other people help with the fact gathering or putting the facts in context, because Personal Journalism is part of a conversation, not a proprietary, walled garden.

Further, Owens thinks that all journalists will need to become personal in this way in the future, possibly with the exception of those reporting for print and broadcast media. It’s a compelling thought that all online journalists should take to their hearts. Live the medium, be a part of it, and you’ll reach out to your readers.

In a later post, Owens wonders if it’s a good term, and then clarifies:

what I’m talking about isn’t really about personal expression. It’s more about personal connection.

He also modifies his statement a bit.

Given more time to think about it, personal journalism is, if it is real, just another genre of journalism, like narrative journalism or enterprise reporting.

On to definitive-voice journalism. It is the opposite, and it is what we are used to from MSM:

Definitive-voice journalism is the journalism of big media, of packaged-good media. It is the way journalism has been practiced for some time. It is the journalism that the traditionalists defend. It is the journalism that says, “the news is what I say the news is.” I’m not predicting the demise of definitive-voice journalism, but personal journalism will become the dominant journalism within a matter of years.

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Comments (2)

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  1. Andre says:

    Personal Journalists let other people help with the fact gathering … are you sure ?

  2. Well, that was part of a quote from Howard Owens, but sure – it does say “help with”, not “do”. You still need to check your sources, of course, and learn who you can trust.
    I see possibilities in working in collaborative ways.

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