Sunday, November 26, 2006

Bloggers and Journalism

On another Blog a writer stated that maybe he could be called a bad journalist for not asking all the questions of someone he was interviewing. A commenter wanted to know if he wasn't just an opinionated lefty with a free blog site. Hmmm.

You'll find no references to journalism and myself in this blog, I'm not. I comment and I advocate. I do not go find news stories and report on them, I express my opinions. I try to make sure I have facts where facts are relevant, but I don't write treatists so I don't usually footnote or source note. So, we're not talking about me.

There seems to be some idea that being a journalist involves a degree and a major media employer. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Being a journalist is defined by engaging in the activity of journalism, which is finding stories, asking the right questions, writing well about the answers, and publishing the work. The activity defines the actor and if those qualifications are met, then that's what you are. Nothing says a journalist can't also be a commentator, though there is some requirement that there's a separation between the two activities.

The definition of journalist I'm disputing would include Judith Miller of the New York Times as a journalist - a prestigious degree and a prestigious very large major media employer. What Judith Miller actually was is defined properly as a propagandist. She got fired for it, but hey, everybody called her a journalist up until then. Had she betrayed the concepts that define a journalist? Evidently enough to be roundly criticized and fired for it. So, the real world definition relies on the activity not something else, like degrees.

The fact that a site is free, electronic, or whatever means of publishing is immaterial. Is the written matter properly done and is it read are the questions that count. The site I'm referring to probably gets read more times per day than I do per month, so it gets read. I reach out and touch some people every day, I have some influence with a group of people. Now I won't get all puffed up about how much or what kind of influence, reading something has an impact on thinking. A site that has large readership has a larger impact and the fact that the site may engage in journalism increases that impact. The impact I have involves perception and opinion, the impact of journalism impacts knowledge of facts.

The Baker City Herald's journalists will not claim to have the impact or quality of some of the really large outlets, but they do the work and almost always get it right. If that's the case for them and is the case for a Blogger, then there is no material difference. The quality of the writing may vary and the source availability may vary but the activity is the same. It is quite factual to compare the Bloggers of today with the press of Revolutionary times, and probably favorable to the Bloggers. There is a more developed sense of fairness and accuracy in today's reporting, and those who don't bother with it are soon known. I will again point to Judith Miller when people want to rail against the damage done by unprincipled Bloggers.

Blogging journalists have one huge advantage over traditional journalists, there is no editorial board with advertisers to please or corporate masters to avoid offending. I know very well how important that editorial freedom is, I regularly offend some readers of particular issue orientations with my commentary and I'm free to do so and to continue to do so.

When a blogger gives you some good well sourced journalism, be grateful and don't be afraid to call it journalism.