Bill Grueskin, managing editor of WSJ.com, says the Journal has discovered how to make blogs work and is interested in exploring social networking tools, but isn't sure "citizen journalism is right for the Journal.
"One of the biggest issues we face with citizen journalism is disclosure. That is, in financial and business news, it’s vital that readers know what interest, if any, a journalist has in a company. That’s why our ethics code [PDF file] is so tough on issues such as stock ownership, selling stocks short, etc. WSJ journalists sign that code every year, and it is critically important in establishing our bona fides on stories in which people can make, or lose, a fortune. I don’t know how we could replicate that with citizen journalists.
On the subject of blogs, I know you’ve done a lot of online-only columns that were similar to blogs. You had once said that blogs were too instantaneous for the Journal and you couldn’t vet them enough ahead of time. What got you over the hump to finally launch them?
Grueskin: We’ve been trying to figure out what would work well as blogs but not as columns. The law blog by Peter Lattman really set the standard for it. We could have a daily or weekly column for law, but it’s really much more effective as a blog rather than as a column. But if you look at what Jason Fry does with Real Time or Terri Cullen does with Fiscally Fit, I don’t know if they would work as well as blogs.
If something generates a constant flow of news, for instance, like the MarketBeat blog, it revs up at 8 in the morning and goes until about 5 in the evening, and it’s a very effective way to deal with what’s going on in the market. And at the same time, we have a market story that’s updated every hour, “the Dow’s up, the Nasdaq’s down.” There’s some overlap with the two, but at the same time, there are some people who prefer the blog way of looking at the markets, and there are some people who just want to know what’s going on in the market.
We’ve all come around to seeing how powerful blogs can be and how they generate their own momentum. You can really get the community going. When Lattman does a post about the heavy prison terms handed out to certain felonious CEOs, and asks, “what do you think about that, readers?” We find that there are 65 comments posted in a couple hours. There’s a real value there that you wouldn’t get in a regular column.
Do you edit blog posts and/or comments before they’re published online?
Grueskin: Posts are all read before they get posted. We don’t go back and forth arguing for hours about the nut [para]graph of a four-paragraph blog post. For reader comments, we generally look at those after the fact and ask for readers to flag ones with inappropriate content. We only take down a fraction of a percent of comments. We haven’t had problems with that.
There are certain topics that get more comments than others. We just started a blog [called The Juggle ] on work and family issues. It’s new so it’s not getting as much traffic as others, but it gets a lot of comments. There are certain topics, like work and family issues, where people are motivated to comment, but on a post about how the market’s doing, they might find that interesting, but they won’t need to comment on it.
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