A Journalist By Another Name

A question that has been running around both the blogosphere and around the mainstream media, is trying to decide if bloggers are “journalists”. Not just in the sense of can their news and information be trusted but also whether or not they should be given the same rights as a regular journalist. I do not propose to answer this question, I personally feel that it is far to complicated to be given a simple yes or no answer. However, in this post I do hope to present my thoughts and if possible narrow the scope of the question so it can be reasonably answered.

 

Bloggers come in many forms, some merely write their own personal thoughts down in their blog, an online journal and diary. For a vast majority of bloggers this is all their blog is, a form of personal therapy committing some thoughts to the web as opposed to paper. These bloggers I think both sides, both bloggers and mainstream journalist, can say they do not deserve the protection of an actual journalist. They aren’t presenting news, there are no inside sources, there is nothing else to protect other than the basic 1st Amendment right to be able to speak your mind in a public forum. Now the next type of blogger is one where they present their analysis on news stories and intersperse it with personal thoughts from time to time. This type of blog also appears to not require the legal protection of being labeled a journalist. The sources of news to be analyzed are either other bloggers or news articles. Again it seems unnecessary to provide the protection of being labeled a journalist where journalism is not being practiced.

 

Now, the crux of the problem is when you have sites such as ThinkSecret1, TechCrunch2, and other sites that present news that is not presented in any other form other than an online blog and that work to break a news story. Several companies have sued blogging sites, unsuccessfully I might add, to try to find out what employees leaked confidential information, and argued that since there is no formalized business structure, no editors vetting the information and the sources, that these “news blogs” (Note: I am using quotes around the phrase “news blogs”, not because I dislike them but rather because there is no good definition for what this third type of blog is.) are the same as Joe/Sarah Smith standing on the side of the street and screaming the information. In a way their argument makes a great deal of sense. In many, but not all “news blogs” there is no standard procedure to guarantee accurate information, however we have also seen mainstream media fail at properly checking their sources3.

 

Yet I also feel that any citizen should be able to present information, and if ThinkSecret has a rumor from Apple that they wish to blog about, who am I to stop them. The question should not rest on the qualifications of the site or the blogger. The blogosphere has on more than one occasion presented information before mainstream media4. CNN now even has a part in their daily line up when they go through and see what some of the blogs are discussing.

 

This question is not so much of whether all bloggers should also be labeled journalist but rather which bloggers are journalistic in nature to actually need the protection of being labeled a journalist. Is a blogger a journalist by any other name? That is for you decide, hopefully this blog has presented the question in a different light.

 

References:

 

  1. http://www.thinksecret.com/

  2. http://www.techcrunch.com/

  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Killian_documents

  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blogs

Justin Yost is a full-time Software Engineer and a part time educator. A graduate of Texas Tech University with a bachelor's degree in computer science, Justin relishes programming and learning more about anything and everything. When not working, Justin occasionally gives talks at the local PHP Meetup. In his free time, Justin enjoys backpacking and reading science fiction books.


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