I started to respond to Michelle’s post in her comments section, but then it got too long to be a comment, so I’m posting it here.
I attended a session at NASIG entitled “Column People: What’s their Future in a World of Blogs? The Role of Columnists in Academic Journals.” I erroneously thought it might be an interesting discussion of blogs in scholarly communication, but it turned out to be a “bloggers are hurting our profession!” diatribe. A poorly organized and presented one, at that.
At one point, the presenter pulled a quote out of a blog that seemed to lean more on the cat-blog side of blogging. Although I didn’t recognize the source, I thought it was a rather weak point in an already weak presentation. Not only that, but upon reading the full context, the blog post seems to be more substantial than the presenter would have us believe.
The conversation would have been better served if he had focused on the positive aspects of blogs and the relationship they have to columns. Some of the unwashed actually have pretty good self-editing skills, in addition to having useful things to say.
In the Q&A part of the session, I posed the question of “why worry?” — blogs and columns can continue to co-exist, and as per usual, readers will be drawn to what interests them. Bashing blogs and bloggers will not result in more edited columns in academic journals. They’re serving different purposes and users. It’d be like saying that we should stop using toothpaste because shampoo is an effective personal hygiene tool.
I also noted that the blog medium is just a tool, and it can lend itself to peer and editorial review. For example, I can write whatever I want here, but if it’s crap, at least one of my peers will correct me. There are also collaborative blogs that have evolved to become online magazines with editorial staff, such as Blogcritics.
To all columnists out there: don’t worry — your information dissemination medium isn’t going away because of blogs.