Friday, June 16, 2006

Who You Callin' a Journalist?

The debate over who--or what--in the world is a jounalist has been flairing up in all sorts of odd (or not so odd) places on the 'net...

This week Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist Sam Fulwood III penned this piece that pokes at the notion of citizen journalists taking over the internet, and concludes with a smug comment from a journalism student:
"I certainly hope that reporters are never replaced by ordinary citizens," Kevin wrote. "It would defeat the purpose of newspapers. It has been a lifelong dream of mine to become a journalist, and I want to be sure that I can have a long career at a newspaper. "

Hmm....I keep hearing all kinds of hoo-ha from working journalists that journalism school doesn't mean a hill of beans. Are they blowing smoke up my ass or what??

Meanwhile there's been a brou-ha-ha over at the National Review's Media Blog--the result of the outing and subsequent cry of "I'm outta here!" from Daily Kos' Armando--which prompted this post from Stephen Spruiell and another by Nate Goulding defending their bloggers-are-journalists position. From Goulding's post:
A journalist is defined as one who "[writes material] for publication in a newspaper or magazine or for broadcast." Assuming blogs are created for broadcast—which, I think, most are—that would make any blogger a journalist. "Circulation" (read, traffic) will depend on how well a blogger upholds journalistic standards. If a blogger claims a bomb has gone off, when one really hasn't, then that blogger's support and readership will likely drop off—at least when it comes to breaking news. Look at and their Rove-indictment story. This is, of course, true only if producing fake news stories is not your primary goal (h/t The Onion).

I ended up emailing Spruiell on the matter (I wholeheartedly support the notion that bloggers aren't journalists--but that doesn't mean that many of us *don't* follow some kind of ethical code. He and I had a very civil email exchange, and I ended up questioning him (as I did Mike Needs and some others) on just what makes a journalist.

Oddly enough, I got the answer--once again from someone who went to journalism school--that it's not school that makes the journalist....

Why is it that all these people who've gone to journalism school all seem to agree that one does not need journalism school to be a journalist? If that's the case, why aren't they working as plumbers? The only journalists I can trust when they say that you don't need journalism school to be a jounalist are the ones who've never gone to journalism school and are doing something other than writing for the local paper (under the tutelage of a journo-school journalist.)

The word of the rest, I do not believe-- any more that I believe journalists are completely objective and always follow their ethical guidelines to a "T."

I think it's that I have a low tolerance for b.s.

And then Yahoo decided to announce that it is launching a "citizen video journalist news service at the end of June."

Writers--whether bloggers or journalists--need not apply. Budding TV news camerapersons however are strongly encouraged!

We are, however, no closer to understanding if indeed there is a difference between bloggers and journalists--but the debates are interesting. I say there is a distinct difference-- in part because bloggers have the freedom to interact, and journalists do not. The freedom to interact, however, doesn't mean we act without some sort of ethical code (as some journalists believe)--esp. if we want to gain respect among a certain group of people. Even on the most contentious political blogs, there's a certain integrity beyond the "echo chamber" effect that keeps them afloat--no matter how much we hate what they say or the way in which they say it. We as bloggers also have the freedom to NOT be objective. Journalists are hampered in may ways by this.

We are, essentially, two different forms of media. There are some journalists who will be able to overlap (such as Mike Sando, who's interviewed in OJR) and I'm sure there will be bloggers who will be able to move far more seamlessly between both worlds than the current crop of practicing journos ever might. Yet I think acceptance of the differences--and a mutual respect earned--will happen when we stop trying to one-up one another. The only way that can happen is when we stop fighting over the same over-tapped revenue stream.

Just a thought...

(thanks to J.H. for the PeeDee link

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