Bloggasm’s Simon Owens Talks Citizen Media, Blogging

Bloggasm is a site that really shows the way of modern journalism. Run by Simon Owens, a 25-year-old former newspaper journalist, it hits today’s media issues with Owens’ special style.
Owens is no slouch when it comes to journalism. He writes on a regular basis for PBS’s Media Shift. The blog, Bloggasm was named in 2008 as one of PC Magazine’s favorite blogs. Focusing on media subjects Owens recently tackled the rumors about Sarah Palin divorcing and questioned the ethics behind repackaging news articles. Mr Owens took the time to discuss his views on citizen journalism, his site and online journalism. KJ- Why did you go digital journalism from print? SO- Well in many senses I was immersed in the online blogging world well before I became a print journalist. I started my first blog when I was a freshman in college and then launched one that began conducting original interviews when I was a junior, and even as a print journalist I secretly maintained Bloggasm, staying sometimes up until 2 in the morning after work interviewing sources and trying to break stories. Eventually it got to the point where I had made so many contacts within the blogging world that I got some job offers and jumped into the digital realm completely. KJ- Digital Journal is comprised of both professional and citizen journalists. What do you think of citizen journalists? SO- I find myself between the new media evangelists and the old media curmudgeons. I think that citizen journalism has a fascinating role in how information spreads and yet being immersed within the blogosphere daily I get frustrated with the sheer amount of misinformation and shoddy blogging that goes on — I think the traditional journalism filter does do something to battle that, though traditional journalism has its own problems that citizen journalism helps counteract. KJ- Bloggasm is a really cool site, I see you launched it prior to graduating. Has the focus changed since that time? SO- Oh yes, it wasn’t a very good site when it first launched, I had an idea that it would just feature Q and A interviews with prominent bloggers, and so they were just conducted via email and weren’t very specific or interesting. But as I began working as a print reporter and learning how to break news, conduct good interviews and weave them into a narrative, I thought: “Why couldn’t I do this for my blog?” I also got incredibly adept at getting my stories to spread using blogger outreach (I now do digital PR utilizing these skills) and so I began publishing feature-length stories, getting really good scoops and interviews having to do with online media. KJ- I read that you do marketing articles at times. Would you write a positive piece for something that you completely disagree with? SO- I’ve done digital PR outreach for clients that I wasn’t 100% behind. I doubt I would do anything on my blog along these lines without any kind of full disclosure, I tend to not ever write about clients on my blog anyway. Maybe “not 100% behind” is a bad phrase, more like it was a political issue I was somewhat indifferent on. KJ- Are you able to support yourself as an online journalist? SO- That’s the plan. Basically my blog is a “loss leader,” in that I don’t make much direct revenue on it (I do sell ads, though I don’t think I’ll make much that way). My blog is basically an advertisement for my online media and digital PR skills. If I can get a lot of people to come to it, then a certain percentage of them will need my skills to help spread the word about their product/media outlet/issue and contact me to hire me. KJ- That makes a lot of sense. Last question. What advise do you have for people just starting out in the field of online journalism? SO- Keep your blog layout simple and easy to read. Make your contact info readily available (you’d be surprised how many don’t do this) in case some kind of scoop lands in your inbox. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and actually pick up a phone and call a source, because 99% of your competition will take the easy route, giving you a leg up. That’s good advice from Mr. Owens. As traditional media moves closer to digital media the old tricks of the trade like confirming sources are as needed as much they ever were. Pulling up your sleeves and doing the hard work will in time see citizen and digital news have the same weight as old school print journalism.
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