I had lunch recently with a group of friends, all journalists – editors or reporters. All, including myself, have a bachelor’s degree in journalism or closely related academic area. We spent many years, learning the ropes, ethically and how to report a story without bias, to have balance and fairness in our reporting. We’ve all been employed by mainstream media publications. And, all of us are also bloggers.
The subject of journalist versus a blogger is not new; it has come up many times in the last decade, primarily from the onslaught of new freelance bloggers (journalists?) at the 2004 elections, who began doing Web log posts.
Although I blog and am a trained journalist (now I work in branding marketing and public relations), I don’t consider my blog posts journalism. In the United States, journalists don’t get a license, closest thing to it is a press pass or ID, so the definitional line isn’t so clear.
If this subject isn’t new, why then did we talk about it and now I’m writing about it? Our conversation at lunch was centered on recent ruling by U.S. District Federal Judge Marco Hernandez about a blogger, who claims to be an investigative blogger. The ruling was based on First Amendment protection. For the full story, take a look at “You Be The Judge: Are Bloggers Journalists?”- Forbes http://onforb.es/vABJ3e
Most bloggers that I know, say they are journalists, entitled to equal rights with mainstream media outlets. Some of my journalist friends disagree. They say bloggers are not journalists – never were and never will be. They argue that the majority of bloggers, because they have no editors, no strict standards and no one to answer to clearly are not journalists. It also seems to me j-school college graduates are trained to verify your facts and quotations. I don’t believe the all bloggers do this.
Yet as for First Amendment rights, I come from a little different point of view. I believe that journalism reports and blog posts deserve First Amendment protection that our Constitution guarantees. However, I don’t believe the blogger should have free run. Like journalists, they are subject to consequences that can arise after they publish a post, such as being sued for libel or ordered to reveal a confidential source.
It is very clear that bloggers have First Amendment rights, which protect all of our opinions. What isn’t so clear is if bloggers are entitled to the protections of other federal and state laws, such those that allow journalists to protect confidential sources. That’s another topic for another day.
When we ask who is a journalist, the real questions are: is the journalist, whether reporting for a magazine, newspaper, television, radio or blog, giving analysis, commentary or political outbursts? (Hmmm…I won’t go here in this, but that brings to mind some mainstream reports?)
The true issue is not simply the job title, but the activity.