Friday, February 23, 2007

Ferocious Discussion over at USF Journalism Blog

It's all about whether or not bloggers can be journalists. (We mean, of course, amateur blogs, not working journalists who *also* blog.)

Friends of this blog naturally want to know what *I* think. Argument is so messy. Go straight to the oracle.

....J.Michael Robertson said...

I just don't worry about who has the title of journalist and who doesn't unless that blurring of names causes problems for serious investigative reporting or substantive international journalism or substantive local reporting. Two of those problems:

1)readers/viewers becoming even more confused about which news sites are credible and which aren't -- many a blogger is full to the brim with lies and errors; if I concede that bloggers are journalists, I must add that only some are journalists, or that if all are, most of them are very *bad* journalists -- which is not quite the same thing as not being a journalist;

2) a growing preference among readers/viewers for blogs that give it up for nothing and thus destroy the economic model of a newsroom where people are paid to go get the news. At first, of course, blogs may simply feast on what the newsrooms provide, circulate it, increase the audience for it, get the news out there. But if fewer people pay those who produce the product, then the product dwindles and degrades as newsrooms contract, contract, contract. And then we are left with a world of amateur journalists.

Lia doesn't want to call them journalists. The nomenclature doesn't bother me. The challenge is will these blogger/journalists -- these unpaid zealots and/or hobbyists -- actually do the reporting, take the time, balance the sources (which at the end of the day you really do need to do), recognize their biases and try to be fair in spite of those biases, do the dull nuts-and-bolts meeting stories in spite of having no interest in doing them; give up their hobbyhorses in favor of the full spectrum of news.

And do all this without being paid to do it. I think it's Jay Rosen (at NYU?) who is part of an effort in which citizens contribute money to a kind of blog/ journalist clearinghouse, each donation targeted to a particular story the donator wants covered. Then, the editors at the clearinghouse organize blogger journalists to work on such stories. The editors advise and compile, and voila...

Voila, what? But the point is that traditional news media are losing eyes. I assume that the bloggers *have* to be part of the solution if we are to save journalism. We can't simply say they aren't journalists. Perhaps, the challenge is to figure how to push them toward journalism??

I end with question marks. This is a blog. This is a conversation in progress.

....J.Michael Robertson said...

Already with a clarification. Of course, most bloggers are personal essayists. But there are plenty of bloggers, almost all political, who see themselves as doing a kind of journalism.

Let's consider Matt Drudge. A journalist? I would say a partisan journalist who is often a bad journalist. But you could say the same of Rupert Murdoch.

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