Network journalism: what's in a word?

There's been some useful debate and even progress in the quicksilver sphere of Web 2.0 terminology this week.

First Stephen Baker on BusinessWeek's Stephen Baker was thinking about whether the word "blogger" was a good one, or if it would hold the medium back:

But a negative association of the word "blogger" could lead some bloggers to start calling themselves something else. Blogger is an ever evolving word. At some point, bloggers may opt to rebrand.

Plenty of labels are available. A blog could be called a journal, a bulletin, a pamphlet or a magazine, and the blogger could easily call him/herself--take your pick--a journalist, writer, pundit, editor or publisher. So if the words blog and blogger don't conjure up what we want to be, there's nothing binding us to them. I'm holding on, at least for the time being....

I wonder if we need new words or whether the phenomenon will grow into the ones we already have. Maybe pamphleteer was a dirty word 300 years ago, certainly in establishment circles it would have been. Novels were frothy things for weak minds and thrill-seekers, but that word managed to define an art-form. Libels (from the Latin "little books") certainly took on a very negative meaning as the name for this type of publication became synonymous with slander and eventually entered legal language.

Meanwhile Jeff Jarvis decided that "network journalist" was a more useful phrase than "citizen journalist" (or "witness contributor" as the NUJ weakly tried to re-define it).

“Networked journalism” takes into account the collaborative nature of journalism now: professionals and amateurs working together to get the real story, linking to each other across brands and old boundaries to share facts, questions, answers, ideas, perspectives. It recognizes the complex relationships that will make news. And it focuses on the process more than the product.

I like this one - and you could see that there were a number of people immediately happy to back the new definition, Euan Semple and Neil McIntosh among them.

I think that this works well, and may have a chance of survival - certainly "citizen journalism" has less currency than a "blog" and its use is more limited to those in the know about social media, so there's more chance that it can be supplanted at this stage. Blogs, though - I think it is a word we are likely to have to grow into.

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