Traditionally, journalists have more or less worked alone. Journalists in both the news business and feature writers for magazines typically will develop their stories, dig up their leads, conduct their interviews and draft the final product themselves. In the newspaper business, major stories will sometimes become collaborative efforts where several reporters are working on aspects of a story and their work is edited into a single piece, published under multiple bylines.
Communicating with a journalist was generally a haphazard affair, placing a call to a switchboard or desk and leaving a message. Today, major newspapers all have websites and provide email addresses for most of their journalists and nearly all of their columnists. People who write columns and opinion pieces are generally more open to communicating with the public because their work is often designed to generate controversy and feedback is important. Occasionally columnists will find ideas for new topics in the email traffic they receive, or will write about the heavy response they received on a particular piece.
A journalist with some initiative can take this communications process one step further by setting up a personal website. That site can serve several purposes: all of them require some work. The function of the site depends, to some degree, on the amount of time the journalist is willing to devote to it. A working reporter may also have to negotiate permission to engage in some online publishing of his own with the editorial staff of the paper or magazine that employs him.
Internet blogs have made some opinionated people in this country powerful and well known, just by virtue of their daily journaling. A working journalist could set up a blog for which he could provide occasional entries, relating to his work or to other news stories or totally unrelated subjects. The value of a blog is that it provides the opportunity for open dialogue among all who wish to log on and participate. Name recognition can be meaningful to some journalists and blogging is one way to develop "viral" recognition by inviting communication. Many people will be attracted to the opportunity to communicate with someone who gets paid to publish.
Blogs can develop story lines for topics for journalists, particularly columnists and feature writers. They can help a professional writer build a persona that doesn't enter into the straight journalism he produces on the job. A personal blog is a way to build a public and well rounded profile that the constraints of a traditional journalism job don't usually allow.
A personal website can also provide the journalist an opportunity to showcase a "profile" of work that is unrelated to the job, or at least has gone unpublished by the employer. Here again, there is a fine line between what the journalist can do online - which is essentially public exposure - and what the requirements of exclusivity on the job may be. But if a journalist has ventured into fiction, a personal website is a great way to put it out there for exposure.
If the goal is a publishing opportunity for fictional work, the website may be a way to short circuit the formal submission rules for fictional work that magazines and book publishers maintain. An established journalist is already a professional writer. Asking a book publishing editor or potential agent to look at product posted on a website is much easier than engaging in the formal process.