As I sit here and read news stories each day, I typically find myself coming across articles that discuss the debate on who is a journalist and who is not. And, as a journalist who writes for the so-called "mainstream tech media," the term is thrown around quite a bit. Unfortunately, I just don't understand why everyone cares so much.
Sometimes I'll write a story that expresses an opinion on a topic and readers will call this inflammatory. Even better, some readers will put quotation marks around the term 'journalist' to indicate that I'm not quite there, as if the term means something special. Am I a journalist? Sure, I think so. Of course, some may try to debate that fact because most of my work here on Digi Home is opinionated and for some odd reason, this idea of "objective journalism" has inched its way into the public psyche and created mass hysteria when a "journalist" shoots straight for once. In fact, most of my writing here on the Digital Home is something we call "subjective journalism" that you'll find in each and every major website, newspaper and magazine in the world.
Now, I do write features, product reviews and columns elsewhere and report on stories just as any other "objective" journalist does (objectively, I guess?) and I uphold the standards that's expected of us -- no ownership in companies being covered, never taking freebies, and so on. But alas, it's the subjective journalism that sustains me because, regardless of whether or not you agree, it stimulates conversation and helps create a dialog that fosters change. After all, isn't that the plight of the journalist?
And if you agree that subjective journalism is, in fact, journalism in its finest sense of the term, aren't any and all bloggers journalists as well? I certainly think so.
Over the past few days, I've become extremely disturbed by articles such as this one from The Wall Street Journal that attempts to downplay the significance of bloggers. The writer explains that, "we've allowed decay to pass for progress" and leads to this with a diatribe on anything and everything blog. In effect, this journalist is insulting millions of people who report on newsworthy topics every day.
During this lengthy rant filled with words that would make Webster weep, Joseph Rago tries to prove himself as a journalist and ends up sounding like the person who can't "fitfully confront the digital age." And while this story is a bit old (it was written last year), the invective Rago uses can be heard through the halls of many major newspapers that are totally unaware of the blogging phenomenon even today.
Bloggers are journalists -- it's as simple as that. If someone can give me a concrete definition of what a journalist is and is not, then I'll gladly tell you who is a journalist. But until then, if you report on something and someone reads it, you're a journalist. Does that mean Miss Jones who tells her neighbors about neighborhood rumors is a journalist if she writes it on a blog? You bet. What's the difference there? Just because some writers have thousands or millions of readers who they inform on a topic, while others have ten, should the less popular writers be stripped of the term? And if so, on what grounds? Because they're not as popular as other people? If you use that logic, then what about Mr. Rago from the Wall Street Journal and Walt Mossberg? Obviously Mossberg would be the real journalist, correct?
By and large, the blogosphere is filled with barely-updated sites, so the argument is relatively moot. But for those sites that are operating to turn a profit and writers inform the public on a daily basis, there's no reason to suggest that their writers are not journalists.
Unfortunately, some fellow journalists from old media will disagree with this assessment because, for some odd reason, they feel this moniker is a country club where only the fit are allowed in. Hate to break it to you boys, but your members are old and can't play golf anymore -- it's time to ease the restrictions. If you don't, you may be wishing you could join the blogger club.