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Swedish Business Journalists' Attitudes towards Blogs

The next speakers at Future of Journalism 2009 are Maria Grafström and Karolina Windell, whose interest is in business news and the portrayal of corporate images as influenced by the relationship between media and business, with bloggers throw in as another complication. This is connected also with research into the idea of corporate social responsibility (CSR), which has become better-known in recent years especially as a result of being promoted by the media.

The way the media have portrayed specific corporations is changing as a result; corporations are framed in different ways depending on whether a CSR perspective is included or not. To understand such different portrayal it is necessary to understand the production of business news, too, and to investigate the sources for different articles. Blogs now play a growing role in this context, and the study presented here especially examined articles about blogs in the business press (print, online, radio) as well as interviewing and surveying business journalists in Sweden.

In the first place, the number of articles containing the word 'blog' increased massively from 2004 to 2006 (with over 1,000) articles in 2006; of these, 61% mentioned blogs in general, 23% referenced specific blogs, and 16% quoted blogs directly. Of the business journalists surveyed, however, some 63% strongly disagreed with the statement that they referenced blogs in their work, so there is a strange discrepancy here. Perceptions on whether tracking discussion in the blogosphere is useful to the work of journalists were more mixed, though: some 33% disagreed more or less strongly with this idea, while 20% agreed more or less strongly. As is common, time constraints were frequently cited as a reason for not engaging with the blogosphere.

At the same time, 20% of the journalists used online communities, 53% wikis, 77% online newsletters, 81% corporate Websites, and 86% search engines to find information for stories; it is strange that the less clearly bylined wiki-based information seems to be used more commonly than blogs, then. Perhaps for some reason there is a reluctance here to acknowledge the use of blogs - maybe because this would mean relying on other authors, but the exact story remains unclear. At any rate, there is an indication here that blogger/journalist relations are changing - even if journalists do not admit they are using blogs as sources, they still consider them to be important elements of the media landscape.

Additionally, journalists who themselves blog are becoming more common; while a few years back, a television journalist who started a blog was forced to quit, now this would no longer be an issue. News production processes take place on the Web more frequently now, anyway, which has changed the location of journalistic work - it no longer takes place mainly in the field. This also opens up the journalistic space for a broader range of participants and greater dialogue between actors who may influence the news agenda. Questions of what is news are also being raised in this context, of course.

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