A few days ago I tweeted: "Professional blogging --> no. It can be incidental. A professional reporter can blog. But being a blogger is not a professional thing."
At the time, I promised I'd write a blog post to explain. This is that post.
It is possible for a professional reporter to blog, even when they're doing their job as a reporter. But it is not a professional act. A reporter might blog about what they learn being a reporter, or covering a certain story. The reporter is an expert on reporting, at least. But a reporter could also be an expert at model trains. Or skiing. Or even be a kibitzer about politics or sports. Expertise comes at all levels. Let's not judge someone as not being expert enough. If you have something to say, it's cool to say it, and a blog is a great place to say it.
However, a blogger is not a reporter who uses WordPress. Yes it's a blogging system, but it's also a content management system, fully capable of running the web presence of all sizes of news organizations. How your writing is transmitted to readers has nothing to do with the act of writing news. It's a trivial distinction.
What's the harm in letting reporters call themselves bloggers? Well, we need a word for a person who shares his or her expertise for free. And we have such a word -- blogger, which derives from the word weblog which was coined by an early blogger, Jorn Barger, and shortened by Peter Merholz to blog and adopted by the community, years before reporters started calling themselves bloggers.
We need a word for what we do because it is an important activity. You can't understand how news works today without understanding the role that bloggers play. So in a sense professional reporters hurt themselves by usurping a term that meant something before they applied it to themselves.
Why are bloggers important to reporters? Bloggers are your sources. They are the people who previous generations of reporters had to reach by telephone. These days reporters can skim hundreds of perspectives on the web, prioritized by search engines. The reach of reporters in the age of blogging is far greater that it was in the age of the telephone. Understanding this synergy is key to understanding how news will evolve in the future.
But the real reason to let amateurs have this word is it's the right thing to do. It's fair. Reporters already have a word to describe what they do. Let us keep ours.
See also: Why blog?