Journalist Tony Ortega on Blogging in the Media

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Former Phoenix New Times reporter Tony Ortega will be back in Phoenix for a speech to journalism students that in part will cover the importance of blogging in journalism. Ortega, executive editor of TheLipTV, which provides news, interviews and insight from various perspectives in short and long form videos, will talk about blogging in the media. Ortega also runs the blog “The Underground Bunker.”

TED SIMONS: Former "Phoenix new times" reporter Tony Ortega was an early and enthusiastic advocate of blogs. Ortega is now executive editor of the lip TV, which provides news and interviews from various perspectives in short and long form videos. He's also still very much involved in blogging and is back in town to address students at the Cronkite school of journalism on the importance of blogs. Here now is Tony Ortega. A long time since I've seen you. Welcome back.

TONY ORTEGA: Great to see you. We used to spend a lot of time together.

TED SIMONS: It was fun and good to see that you have done really well. You are an early advocate of blogging.

TONY ORTEGA: Blogs really freaked out a lot of journalists. They didn't like the idea of people writing about subjects that journalists felt kind of that they owned, and I really saw early on that a lot of bloggers really know their subject better than anyone else and they are dedicated to it. They may not cover everything the way reporters do, but they have one subject. They cover it well. And pretty early on I started featuring material from blogs at the newspapers that I worked at, reached out to bloggers, and now I am one and I really love it. I think it is a great journalistic form. It has gone through different kinds of waves and there is less blogging today than I think there was before because so many people have moved to things like Facebook and tweeting and there is less of that long form blog.

TED SIMONS: From a journalistic sense, compare blogging to Facebook, to Twitter.

TONY ORTEGA: Yeah, I mean, there are people -- let me give you an example. One of the best blogs in the country, the SCOTUS blog, these are folks that cover the supreme court of the United States. When there is a big decision coming out in the country, that is where you need to be. That blog is run by four or five just total experts that focus on one thing and they know it better than anyone. Those are the blogs that I think are so valuable. And they have really changed journalism in a good way, I think.

TED SIMONS: How do you though, I hear from people that say that blogs really not journalism there because there is not a lot of fact checking, not a lot of the other side being presented, and you don't know exactly what you're getting as opposed NewYorktimes.com, or AZ central where you know there's a journalism organization behind it.

TONY ORTEGA: I think readers can tell when a blog is well reported when they want to cover both sides. You're right. A whole spectrum of blogs out there, some more legitimate than others. Readers are intelligent and figure out which ones to take seriously and which to take with grain of salt.

TED SIMONS: I know some critics as well, parasites of major news gathering organizations. Is that a valid criticism?

TONY ORTEGA: No, I don't think it is at all. Major legacy journalism organizations are under siege. The business model is still really -- has not recovered from the downturn, and they really have still not found their way. And I'm very happy that there are still old-time news organizations that are funding investigative reporting, but they can't cover what they used to cover. And, you know, thankfully there are local blogs run by very knowledgeable people that are providing a lot of that coverage that the daily paper used to and can't anymore.

TED SIMONS: The reaction from traditional journalists early on to blogging, compare that to the reaction now.

TONY ORTEGA: I think that there is a more intelligent understanding about that now. And I think that you see -- you see journalists citing blogs more often now, and doing it in an intelligent way. And there are organizations which kind of started as blogs that have become news organizations on their own that have really upset the entire industry. The whole thing is still in so much flux right now. We have seen some new media organizations come in to the fold in the last few years. But there is a lot of investment going on, but I don't know about how much revenue. I think there is still a lot of question about how this industry is going to survive.

TED SIMONS: Indeed, revenue, talking about the changing face of journalism and the new this and new that. Revenue streams and where you are going to get your money, how you are going to support these people, it's always front and center. I could start the Ted Simons blog and be an expert, but eventually I need to buy some groceries.

TONY ORTEGA: Where is the money, I know. There are new platforms that help you bring money in on a blog that can help, you know, offset the cost. But, no I mean, you are never going to replace the great investigative expansive reporting, blogs really can't do that. I don't think the answer has been found as far as the business model for supporting investigative journalism, and it is worrying.

TED SIMONS: Investigative journalism goes down that avenue. So many blogs are more editorial in content than I think most journalists would be comfortable with.

TONY ORTEGA: Definitely. Readers know that. Readers can tell when someone is riffing off of the top of their head, versus the blogs where they know what they're talking about. Read the documents, can explain them to you. Those are -- those are the blogs that get the most traffic.

TED SIMONS: I know your blog is really -- covers a lot of things, Scientology seems to be the -- you have -- you have like -- you have really covered this story over the year.

TONY ORTEGA: I started to write about Scientology in Phoenix.

TED SIMONS: This is the birthplace of Scientology.

TONY ORTEGA: This is the birth place. And I have been writing about Scientology for 20 years. I treat it like it is a beat. I am a beat reporter. Something I know well and I get tips from all over the world and that is what I put on my blog. Large following, very enthusiastic readership, what more can a writer want? I really enjoy it and it has helped me -- I just came out with a book about Scientology. I was just on the documentary that one three Emmy's on Saturday by the way. I'm very comfortable with the blog form.

TED SIMONS: When you speak to students and inspiring journalists, what do you tell -- what kind of advice, did you get into blogging, just avoid the major -- what do you do?

TONY ORTEGA: No, young people instinctively know they need to be online. Young journalists understand that they need to be putting something on line in the form of a blog or something so that they start to create an online presence. People doing well in journalism, all have branded themselves through work they have done online. Young people understand that. They know they need to get online and develop specialties, and they also need to learn the basics -- internship, cover the city council, essential skills that we need.

TED SIMONS: They are indeed. Good to see you. Congratulations on your success.

TONY ORTEGA: Thanks for having me on, Ted.

TED SIMONS: You bet.

Tony Ortega:Executive editor of TheLipTV

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