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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Are bloggers journalists?

With all the hub-bub lately about whether bloggers should be considered journalists and offered the same protections as reporters, I started to think about this.

Are bloggers journalists?

There's a lot of debate on the subject. Lots of experts (and many not-so-expert folks, too) are weighing in. You can type that phrase into the Yahoo search bar and read all about it, because I have neither the energy nor the time to link you to all the reference materials on this matter.

All I know for sure is my opinion, which I'd like to think is an educated one. As you know, I am a journalist by trade. I went to journalism school, worked for a newspaper and write everyday to put food on my table. Really, there's not really any other way to describe me. (Although "hack" works just as well.)

The snob in me -- the one who went to a top-ranked journalism school and knows she's a good writer -- has always believed there should be some sort of licensing for journalists. Especially in public relations, which has been my area of concentration. Too many people who can't write their way out of a paper sack end up with PR jobs, and that's not cool. Good PR should be good writing, and the people with those jobs should be trained writers.

I read a lot of blogs. Some of the people whom I read are not formally trained, but are damn good bloggers. (Actually all of the people I read are damn good bloggers, or I wouldn't be reading.) Most of them are just recounting life's observations and aren't tackling the nitty gritty. I don't know if I'd call them journalists, but they are good writers.

What I do here on my blog is not journalism. I don't interview sources and write well-researched stories. All you get here are my observations on life. And sometimes they don't suck. So, for the purposes of my blog, I'm just a blogger, not a journalist. At work, I'm a journalist. But all in all, I'm a writer.

I think some bloggers are journalists. And I think some journalists are using blogging software as their medium to publish. I don't think all these folks are trained as I've been, but that's how it was at the newspaper too. Some people had college degrees and some people just had a damn good writing style and a lot of contacts. It just depends.

If someone is treating their blog as an honest-t0-goodness publication, with interviews, sources, fact-checking and editing, then yeah, they're a journalist and should be protected as such. If they somehow manage to leak trade secrets in between their rant on their morning trip to Starbucks and a muffin recipe, then they're not.

I believe deeply in a free press and grass-roots journalism. If it weren't for anonymous, grass-roots journalists, we'd probably all still be English. I think what the bloggers who are reporting is great for our society and for journalism. I love that the blogosphere makes it so easy for people to share their insights with us. However, with that there is good and bad. I have seen those who have a pretty good story hiding behind anonymity. And a lot of it's not straight-forward reporting. There's a lot of good writing out there, but I don't know that it's all journalism.

Protected speech is protected speech, but it tends to be a gray and murky area, especially in the digital age. That's why we need to support the Electronic Frontier Foundation and stay up-to-date on the work they are doing. If you haven't been over there before, I suggest you check it out. Oh, and give them money, because they are a nonprofit and they are protecting all bloggers' rights.

For those bloggers (or anyone else for that matter!) who'd like to be considered journalists, I want to remind you that there are responsibilities to being a journalist. You can't just start writing, hit publish and -- voila! -- instant journalist. There's a reason I'm trained not only in grammar and editing, but in ethics and media law, as well. The pen is a very powerful tool. It always has been. And we have to be very careful what we do with our words.

For more on the responsibilities of being a journalist, you can click on the Society of Professional Journalists' code of ethics. If someone's doing all that (or at least striving for it, because ethics codes are living, breathing documents that you work toward), then let's call them a journalist. Fair, unbiased, balanced news. And not the kind you find on Fox.

2 comment(s):

I saw a quote somewhere..."Journalism is literature. In a hurry."

I love all of what you do, and thanks for keeping it up. Love you!!

By Blogger Toma, at 4/06/2007 1:47 AM  

I really think you should have some education to be considered a journalist or atleast you should have worked as one and been published elsewhere other than your blog. I in no way would ever consider myself in that league; why? just realistic I guess.

By Blogger rosalie, at 4/07/2007 9:30 AM  

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