No there isn’t any difference. The newspaper columnist’s words are published by another entity – the newspaper. The weblog columnist’s words…and images…are published by a third party; WordPress or Blogger or some such faceless corporation.
The newspaper writer goes out and gets information, gossip, and scandal to interest the reader – the newspaper sells itself to the reader an the advertisers – and the advertisers sell things to the readers. On this WordPress weblog column you will get random advertisements round the thing, based upon where you have been browsing on the net recently.
The newspaper writer can be censored by the newspaper’s editor or publisher. They in turn can be influenced by a myriad of further controllers…sometimes even by good taste or good sense. Okay, stop laughing, this is serious…The weblog writer can also have their pages pulled by the host if they go over certain boundaries.
Finally, most newspaper columnists are enormously jealous of their position and protective of their column. So are weblog columnists. In neither case do we want to be bumped off by other writers.
Yes, there is a difference. The newspaper columnist gets paid money. the weblog writer just gets to write. Their position is akin to that of the aspiring novelist – they have a vast choice of garrets in which they can starve. The weblog columnists who write about articulated steam locomotives have Beyer-Garretts to starve in. Thats a locomotive joke but it rarely moves under its own power. Laugh, damn it.
The newspaper columnist has the vast prestige or sordid reputation of the newspaper to back up whatever they write. people assume they are telling the truth or peddling the lie based upon the previous track record of the rag. This is no little influence – writers who craft lies within a paper that is seen as the paragon of virtue can frequently have those lies believed and spread further. Conversely, but oddly, the newspaper columnist who tells the clear truth in a paper that is generally seen to be fit for only wrapping fish can get away with it too – no-one believes them anyway.
The weblog columnist has no reputation to boast of or sully. They are out there on their own and stand or fall on their own merits. No-one assumes that because WordPress carries your exposition on the trade in live Hyundai sedans that it is true. No-one cares.
Finally, the newspaper columnist can frequently be a welcome, if feared guest at a social function. Courted for what they might say, and avoided for the same reason. They are offered free liquor and cheese cubes on toothpicks. The weblog columnist is thoroughly ignored. This is not as bad as it sounds – as they are invisible they get to hear more scandal and can steal their own drinks and cheese.