Imagine your blog winning a Pulitzer Prize.
For some in the media business, that’s what it was like when the Huffington Post–famous for its content aggregation and use of social media–won its first on Monday. In fact, some people like Slate.com’s Will Oremus are asking if it’s even a newspaper at all.
That hasn’t been a simple question to answer. In a time where anyone can start a publication, the line between “journalist” and “blogger” looks more like an endless gray area.
Content aggregation is an easy way for websites to gain traffic to their website. Online newspapers have long given credit when they run other people’s news, but Huffington and others like it have stood on the shoulders of other people’s content.
In fact, when I proposed the idea of a blog to the other members of the Pearl team, I made it a key point to start a content aggregation series (Monday Morning Links). We can’t produce or purchase all the content we need to run an effective blog. So if readers are going to see someone else’s content, we want to be their source for other people’s content.
To be fair, HuffPo won its Pulitzer for an amazing original piece by veteran journalist David Wood on recovering wounded veterans. The all-original piece took eight months to put together, and it highlighted the human toll of war.
But while one new medium is celebrating its legitimacy, others are struggling to merit the respect of their old media colleagues.
Take, for example, the sad case of Crystal Cox. The Oregon blogger lost a $2.5 million defamation judgment when a district judge ruled that Cox wasn’t a journalist because:
…the record fails to show that she is affiliated with any newspaper, magazine, periodical, book, pamphlet, news service, wire service, news or feature syndicate, broadcast station or network, or cable television system. Thus, she is not entitled to the protections of the law.”
Suffice to say, no one really knows what makes a journalist, a newspaper, or a “legitimate” media outlet anymore.
What made Huffington stand out from the thousands of content aggregators out there was its original content. It’s hard to sell a paper enough without having the name behind it; the content aggregation written for SEO drew the eyeballs it needed to hire the quality talent needed for original content.
Any blog and any website has the potential to become a “legitimate” source of news or quality content. It’s not a bad thing to include links posts or to start as a small operation.
Legitimacy comes with proven reliability. If you’re an aspiring blogger, your work is simple but difficult. Do the best you can.