Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Is This Journalism?

Is Blogging Journalism?

I don't suffer any illusions, and don't consider myself a journalist, nor do I consider this blog a news outlet.  What you get here is more of an Op-Ed page, sans the rest of the paper.  This is predominately political speech and opinion.  I don't need to protect my sources, and include them more often than not.  But then again I don't consider journalists who simply ingest and regurgitate material coming off the wire as journalists either, they're writers using material generated by journalists.

That said, there are blogs and bloggers who are legitimate journalists, who go out and do the legwork, investigation, and research to be considered journalists, regardless of whether or not they derive income from it.

Should the Government Define Journalism and Journalists?

The government is attempting to define, or more accurately refine the distinction between freedom of speech and freedom of press, and who deserves protection of sources under the media shield law  The original bill would have extended protections to a "covered person" who investigates events and obtains material to disseminate news and information to the public" and that is where the dispute arises, who is a "covered person"?

The compromise defines a "covered person" as:

an employee, independent contractor or agent of an entity that disseminates news or information. The individual would have to have been employed for one year within the last 20 or three months within the last five years.  It would apply to student journalists or someone with a considerable amount of freelance work in the last five years. A federal judge also would have the discretion to declare an individual a "covered journalist," who would be granted the privileges of the law.


So, who's a Journalist?

The argument could easily be made that Western Hero is an entity that disseminates news or information, but the same could be said of anyone's Facebook page.  So the crux of the argument would then turn to the definition of "employed".  I am not an employee of Western Hero, I receive no compensation for my work.  We could I suppose generate some small amount of ad revenue if we chose to run ads... would that make me a journalist?

If a government employee gave me information, not readily available to the public, and I repeated it at a dinner party, no one would argue that I was entitled to protect my source.  If I reprinted that information here, should I be entitled to source protection? That's where it gets tricky.

If Woodward and Bernstein were carpenter's and had uncovered the Watergate scandal on their own, interviewed sources, and posted the whole story on a blog... is that journalism?  I think you could make a good argument that it is.

Journalism should not be defined by income or employment

No matter how you look at it, defining a journalist as someone employed by an agency or entity is a restriction of an existing right.  But the law isn't technically defining a journalist, it's defining who is accorded certain automatic protections, such as notification of subpoenas, search warrants, etc.  The escape clause for such a restriction is the discretion of a federal judge to accord anyone the privileges of the law.  

The law is intended to accord privilege to journalists, without including the vast majority of 140,000,000 twitter users the same protections.  As I write this, some 2.5 million blog posts have been published today.  Are they all journalists? I would say no,  are some of them journalists? I would have to say yes.

Number of blog posts so far today

Most modern dictionary definitions of journalism seem to rely upon media as a defining criteria, but that is an overly simplistic definition.  

Me, I like the wikipedia definition of Journalism taken from Journalism: Principles and Practices. Tony Harcup (2009)

Journalism is the activity, or product, of journalists or others engaged in the preparation of written, visual, or audio material intended for dissemination through public media with reference to factual, ongoing events of public concern. It is intended to inform society about itself and to make events public that would otherwise remain private.  

 What do you think?

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