Bloggers vs. “Journalists”
Deep Thoughts, Uncategorized

Bloggers vs. “Journalists”

Over the weekend, a very interesting discussion broke out on The Watch Lounge.  I encourage everyone to read the post and the comments there, they are from some of the biggest players in the watch media.  I wrote a comment, but wanted to expand a bit here.
There are a few issues at play.  In my comment, I address the Bloggers vs. Journalists question.  This reminds me a bit of our parents saying Rap music isn’t music, or their parents saying Rock music wasn’t music.  Of course bloggers are journalists.  If you are such a contrarian that this does not seem obvious to you, just look at all the “journalists” starting blogs and all the bloggers writing for mainstream outlets.  Or if you really need more proof, go over to Columbia University and find Ben Clymer of Hodinkee in his Graduate Journalism program.  He will not magically become a journalist when he is finished; he is a journalist now.  He will simply be a better journalist.  A journalist is not a doctor.  They are not defined by a degree or by years of experience.  They are defined by their commitment to the subject matter, their readers, and quality of their work.

Now that we can remove the distinction between bloggers and journalists, we can start making generalized statements.  For example: most journalists suck.  If this were only confined to the watch industry, we would be living in a much better society.  Unfortunately, it holds true all the way to the top of the profession.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some absolutely fantastic journalists.  We all have our favorites, whether it be watches, gadgets, sports, or politics.  Making a distinction between bloggers and journalists that is to imply poor quality to high quality is a dirty trick of false association.

On the point that brands should somehow subsidize and encourage the development of bloggers as writers, I think to even imply such a thing is doing bloggers a disservice.  It is no one’s responsibility but a journalist’s own to make sure he has the tools and abilities necessary to create good content.  There is, however, a very fair criticism that brands should provide better information to all media.  I have written many times before on the misinformation often presented by the brands.  One cannot expect a well-informed media if they are only being fed propaganda.

Lastly, on “journalistic integrity”, I have written about that some as well.  All journalists have a major risk of bias, especially in this environment and especially in this industry.  The watch industry are huge ad buyers across all verticals.  Watch media are almost entirely supported by watch brands.  Whether a blog or a magazine, the fact is that the brands are paying for the content and thus, conflicts are inevitable.

Thanks Tom, for bringing up a great discussion.  Thanks to everyone else for commenting.  I could go on seemingly forever, but I’ll leave it here to be picked up another day.

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Hodinkee.com, Steve Hallock. Steve Hallock said: New TickTocking post: Bloggers vs. "Journalists… http://bit.ly/cGKBxP […]

  • ei8htohms

    Well said (although I’m too spineless to go with “most journalists suck”, I’ll happily agree to “some…”).
    Here’s a missplaced anecdote for you:

    When I was in watch school I wrote a number of articles for ThePuristS (pre-PuristSPro), some of which ended up in iW and later Horological Times. These were screws and bits under a microscope kinda articles for anyone unfamiliar with them.

    We sent advance edits to each brand before the articles were completed for comments, corrections, etc. and sometimes they bothered to communicate about such things. One brand (who shall rename nameless) felt that the only way to correct the gross misinterpretations found in the article was to fly me over to CH and show me how their watches are made.

    This might’ve been a neat perk except for the poor timing for me, but I agreed to go for a very, very short trip and see what they had to say. They gave me a fantastic and eye-opening tour of their factory and generally impressed me with their commitment to quality.

    The thing that stood out the most to me though was that they lied right to my face a few times and one time in particular it was so obvious and weird that I lost a great deal of respect for the people I was talking to. No, I didn’t include the details in the article and yes, I think the tone and substance of the article were still improved by the visit, but how weird is that to fly somebody from Seattle to CH and them tell them a stupid lie to their face?

    This to me is what is wrong with the watch industry and their relationship to journalists (and the public for that matter): the bullshit. Don’t even get me started on the articles that never saw the light of day under threat of lawsuit…

    • ei8htohms

      LOL, “rename nameless…”. Classic. You can’t edit that for me can you? 🙂

    • Curtis

      Hi John,
      I’ve encountered similar scenarios numerous times, often with a wink, “I know you know what I’m saying is bullshit, but I’m going to say it anyway… wink, wink.” And, to Brian’s point, I’m frustrated by the abundance of “watch experts” on the internet whose numbers have surpassed tourbillons in production… scary – on both counts. 😉

      Cheers,

      Curtis

  • Jack Forster

    Hi Steve,
    It was a great discussion (or is) and thanks for continuing to raise the point here. In fairness to Jerome Lambert, whose comment in the FT article referenced in Tom’s post led to the some of the wrangling about what is and is not a journalist, I think he was clearly distinguishing between professional journalists who adhere to certain standards of objectivity and accuracy, and amateur bloggers who (at least in his perception) sometimes do not. I think it would be reading too much into his comment to assume he meant “no bloggers have standards” or “only those who write for print are capable of adhering to good standards of objectivity” etc. etc. The minimum (and technically correct) definition of a journalist is simply one who writes for any news medium. Though he didn’t spell it out specifically (which would have been rather a lot to ask for an off the cuff remark) I think it’s fairly clear that Mr. Lambert meant the term in a narrower sense, and to understand his meaning we should take his comment in what seems to me is his clearly intended sense. In that sense, I think it _is_ meaningful to note that there are such things as standards of practice in professional journalism –just as there are in medicine or law; though, just as in medicine and law, we may certainly note that in at least some cases, those standards are more honored in the breach than the observance.

    John’s comment is perhaps more germane to the substantive point under discussion, which is the sheer level of bosh in much of what is released to the public (and parroted by the press.) As an editor, it’s been my unfortunate experience that a great deal of what goes into print is repeated uncritically from press releases, and that, moreover, the level of understanding of the technical side of watchmaking is so dreadfully low that most watch writers –this is especially true of consumer magazines, though niche media is far from immune –quite literally know so little that they don’t even know how little they know.

    Having unwittingly repeated my own fair share of unexamined (and, in retrospect, ill-informed or simply wrong) information over the years I can personally attest to the problem. Watch brands may engage in willful grandiosity and obscurantism but we certainly do play along on the media side (and frankly most bloggers are just as at fault as most print journalists; a soupçon of mean-spiritedness does not criticism make.)

    Jack

    • Brian M.

      One thing I think is important to note is bloggers are often not subject to editorial scrutiny, which as Jack noted, is necessary to maintain standards of objectivity and accuracy.
      The real issue that I see is not about the relationship between manufacturers and bloggers/journalists, but who possesses the information. Manufacturers clearly have the information and it is their prerogative whether to share that information or not. Bloggers/journalists often fill this void with their own opinions or observations.

      A fault I have observed with some bloggers/journalists is their self-appointed title of watch expert. While they are obviously watch enthusiasts, a love for a subject does not an expert make. It is this assumed role of expert that leads many bloggers to “report” what they see as the truth, however accurate or inaccurate they may be. Again, as Jack says, “most watch writers . . . quite literally know so little that they don’t even know how little they know.”

      The internet is a wonderful source of knowledge, but it is a source to be trusted with the proverbial grain of salt at all times. Anyone may publish whatever they may desire. Without information from authorities, e.g. manufacturers, the words of bloggers/journalists often carry more weight than might be desirable

      • Thanks for the comment, Brian. Agreed, at the end of the day we are each responsible to cut through the noise and find the good data mixed in amongst the bad.

    • Hi Jack,
      Thanks for your well thought out (as always) comment. I think you have hit the nail on the head. The real problem is the near complete lack of technical knowledge by so many people writing on a technical subject. It really lets the brands get away with murder, as John so aptly points out.

      The responsibility here falls squarely on the journalists, editors, bloggers, etc to compile the specialized knowledge necessary to critically examine these press releases.

      Of course, this is certainly not limited to watch media.

      Best,
      Steve

  • ei8htohms

    Another example (I know, it’s mean):
    “Rather than having a balance wheel with adjustable screws or a gyromax system, **** uses a labor intensive process that leaves very little room for trial and error. The watchmakers painstakingly remove tiny amounts of material from a solid balance wheel in order to perfectly adjust the watch the first time. The result is a balance wheel that is perfectly adjusted and cannot be modified from the beginning. The final adjustment can only be made with the hairspring, a process that is also done manually.”

    Do you think the author knows that he’s describing the very common process of dynamic poising as if it’s somehow indicative of an extraordinary commitment to craft? I’m not saying that the brand might not have some unique or insightful take on the use of a plain balance with a curb pin regulator, but if they do, they didn’t get that message across at all.

    I know, I know. I said it was mean.

    • Don’t get me started, John! 😉
      Thank god I only have very basic technical knowledge. I cannot even imagine
      how frustrating this industry must be for someone like you who actually
      understands all this stuff and has the capacity to see immediately through
      the BS.