Declan McCullagh over at News.com, has written up a fine piece that discusses the genesis of the new journalist bill approved by Congress earlier this week. And while McCullagh can walk you through the travels this bill has made for approval, I want to discuss why this bill is a load of crap.
As a journalist, I'm protected under this new bill. And while most of you would say that I should be happy that I'm fully protected, I think it's a dishonor to the entire blogging community that the average blogger was left out.
As McCullagh points out, the new bill stipulates that those covered under this bill must have a substantial portion of their livelihood originate from journalistic endeavors. In essence, this stipulation means that I, as a person who makes his living off of writing, will be covered under this law, but the average blogger who writes about the same topics, but works a 9-5 is not. What makes us so different?
Just because I write for so-called "mainstream" technology publications that pay me for what I do, it doesn't mean that I'm any more important to the dialog between writer and reader. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this law rewards those who are lucky.
Look, there is no debating the fact that there are numerous writers on the Internet that write extremely well and can tack prose together better than anyone. Sometimes, these writers are discovered because they were either lucky or had the drive to make a career out of their passion. On the other hand, there are some that simply don't want the exposure or income -- they simply want to write. Why should the government deny those writers the right to do what they love just because they don't want writing to make up the majority of their livelihood?
In a word, this new bill is disgusting.
For those of you who don't know my story, I started writing years ago as a volunteer. I was able to work my way up to a paying gig and finally accumulated enough skill and experience to make it into a career.
But while I was writing for free, I met some of the best writers and editors I have ever worked with. Much like me, they weren't paid for what they did, they simply loved writing. Those editors loved to discuss technology and enjoyed tackling a difficult subject, breaking it down, and building it back up into one cohesive and persuasive thought. In essence, those people I worked with were just like me. But with the passage of this bill, I'm covered with any and all journalistic privileges and all of those people who I once worked with are not. Does that sound fair to you?
Why should money have any impact on journalism? As I've already stated, some of the best journalists are those who don't get paid. Sure, there are a host of blogs on the Internet that border on absurdity, but there are others that do something newspapers and magazines have been trying to do for years -- bring a unique idea to the table. Only this time, it's for free.
Sad as it is, we writers are living in a world where the old guard refuses to relinquish its ideas of what "journalism" should be. In fact, some "journalists" take an elitist stand on this whole debate and try to vilify bloggers by degrading them as writers. I've got news for you boys and girls: those "bloggers" -- you know, the people you won't call journalists -- are kicking your butt in Internet traffic. And do you know why, boys and girls? Because these bloggers -- the people the government has decided to shun -- have far more passion. Bloggers love what they do and don't care about the financial gain as much as the ability to inform the public.
And it is that passion -- that love for what they do -- that I respect and can relate to.
The time has come for one and all to stand up and support bloggers and allow every one of them to be included in this new bill. If we don't, it's a damn shame.