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Are bloggers journalists?


Fat Guy
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I'm not even sure it's a sensible question -- surely some are, and some aren't -- but there has been a lot of talk surrounding a December court decision where a particular blogger was found not to be a journalist. The New York Times report appears here:

"Although the defendant is a self-proclaimed “investigative blogger” and defines herself as “media,” the record fails to show that she is affiliated with any newspaper, magazine, periodical, book, pamphlet, news service, wire service, news or feature syndicate, broadcast station or network, or cable television system. Thus, she is not entitled to the protections of the law"

http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/08/in-2-5-million-judgment-court-finds-blogger-is-not-a-journalist/

An also a later clarification:

“In my discussion, I did not state that a person who ‘blogs’ could never be considered ‘media.’ I also did not state that to be considered ‘media,’ one had to possess all or most of the characteristics I recited.”

http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/04/02/judge-clarifies-that-bloggers-can-be-journalists-just-not-one-in-particular/

As we concern ourselves with food journalism here, there may be some additional questions, such as what kinds of food writing qualify as journalism anyway.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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If somebody hangs up a shingle and says that they are a lawyer, but has no JD, are they really a lawyer?

My inclination is to say that anybody can call themselves anything that they want, but that doesn't make them legitimate.

The problem is deciding who decides what constitutes legitimacy and on what grounds.

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If somebody hangs up a shingle and says that they are a lawyer, but has no JD, are they really a lawyer?

That's not an apt comparison, though, because there are governing bodies that decide who does and does not qualify as a lawyer. There is no equivalent body for "journalist". Nor is there one in my own field, translator. Anyone can hang up a shingle and start working as a translator, and the only test for whether or not they are one is whether or not they translate stuff.

I wonder what exactly one would have to do to meet the proposed test of being "affiliated with any newspaper, magazine, periodical, book, pamphlet, news service, wire service, news or feature syndicate, broadcast station or network, or cable television system". Presumably the answer is "write news reports for any medium that is not the Internet."

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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Call me old-fashioned, but I think some sort of remuneration for your work might be a helpful qualification for determining who is, and who is not, a journalist.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Call me old-fashioned, but I think some sort of remuneration for your work might be a helpful qualification for determining who is, and who is not, a journalist.

So if I have ads on my blog, then I'm good, from your perspective?

I don't know exactly. Not sure ads on your blog counts the same as being paid a salary of some sort, like per word, or per inch, or per piece, or whatever. But I suppose it's a step in the right direction.

As others have said, there seems to be no specific "qualification" or "disqualification."

But I think being paid for your work might be one of the factors in your favor.

Obviously, there's lot of schlock journalism for which folks are paid. But schlock journalism seems to count.

I think if your ads are lucrative enough to be paying your bills, that should count for something.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Jaymes: Why?

I don't know, exactly.

But as I said, just talking over what might and what might not count in your favor if you want to call yourself a "journalist" and be taken seriously (and don't have a degree in journalism or belong to the SPJ or something definitive), the fact that someone finds your work professional and worthwhile enough to pay you for it might count on your side of the ledger.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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I'm not even sure it's a sensible question -- surely some are, and some aren't -- ....

I think that about nails it. There doesn't seem to be any definition for 'journalist', certainly none that is consistent from one place to the next, and even for those who hold degrees in journalism, and work for some media outlet in the country in which they received their degree, there don't seem to be any consistent standards for their out.

Being paid for writing (regardless of the form it takes) doesn't make for a journalist either, since there are almost certainly bloggers (some of whom may have degrees in journalism/worked at some point in their lives for a media outlet) whose writing meets the most stringent standard anybody might require of a journalist, yet not be compensated for it in any way, and do not refer to/think of themselves as journalists.

It seems like 'journalist' is more defined by what it isn't than what it is, and that what it is tightly bound to place (e.g. how many US states have the shield law that Oregon has?).

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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Most bloggings seem to be opinion pieces.

Bloggers are writers but not all writers are journalists.

When I hear the word "journalist" being bandied about, I assume there is a standard to which they are measured against. Also, there's the issue of "truthiness" (from Stephen Colbert) when it comes to journalism which isn't applied equally to all bloggers.

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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BREAKING NEWS: Friday night's meatloaf and mashed potatoes held up just fine for my lunch today. Eyewitness testimony is split as to whether the pop machine is actually sold out of Diet Dr. Pepper, or if the outage is due to mechanical failure. More on this story closer to dinner.

Jerry

Kansas City, Mo.

Unsaved Loved Ones

My eG Food Blog- 2011

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No matter how trivial the example, it can't compete with the stuff I'm seeing on the local television news here in North Carolina.

I think it might be helpful to try to define the term "journalism," though the US Constitution speaks in terms of "press" and the court decision mentioned above speaks of "media." Still, it might be helpful.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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When I graduated college with my journalism degree, I went to work at a daily paper as a sportswriter. Even then, many of the folks on the editorial side would debate with us whether sports writers were real journalists or not.

Of course, we all know they are not only real journalists, but the best kind (grin).

Seriously, though, it seems to me that people merely give the word much more weight than it deserves. It's my opinion that if you take the time to document an event and publish it for an audience then you are in some capacity a journalist, at least for the period of time that people read your account of the event.

Zeemanb, to that effect I would say that your short graf is in fact one of the finest pieces of journalism I have read in awhile: it's concise, tight, and thorough. Not bad for a jest!

Edited because I'm a poor proofreader.

Edited by Rico (log)

 

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Whatever hair-splitting arguments people may enjoy, there's also a long commonsense understanding of "journalism" as associated with things like "journals." I think that understanding may be more to the point than formalities of definition.

Though like most folks I like to put words out on the Internet, the self-selected self-edited self-accountable -- one could almost summarize a little harshly as self-absorbed -- nature of online comments has always struck me as more conceptually like tract printing or vanity book publication: the public offering up of ideas without the accoutrements of an established organization, oversight, demand, or even reputation.

I remember (25 yrs ago) the first time I saw someone post a piece of criticism on the Internet (a book critique) and not title it comments, or report or opinion, but rather a "review." That stood out: At the time, to people attentive to language nuances anyway, the word widely connoted professionalism, editorial oversight, an established medium, etc. From that understanding, it looked presumptuous or pretentious. Of course this label appealed to online writers, so (like realtors abusing the word "home" as a marketing euphemism for house or apartment) with repetition it dulled many ears, and ceased to stand out.

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No matter how trivial the example, it can't compete with the stuff I'm seeing on the local television news here in North Carolina.

I think it might be helpful to try to define the term "journalism," though the US Constitution speaks in terms of "press" and the court decision mentioned above speaks of "media." Still, it might be helpful.

Not sure there are ever going to be any sort of definitive parameters.

There seems to be a perception that being considered to be a "journalist" is a title and distinction one earns over a period of time.

And I do think remuneration counts for something.

If, for example, mkayahara's previously-mentioned ads on the blog are paying the bills, rent, etc., enough so that mkayahara is earning a living from writing, and years pass, at some point... Why not?

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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. . . .

I think it might be helpful to try to define the term "journalism," though the US Constitution speaks in terms of "press" and the court decision mentioned above speaks of "media." Still, it might be helpful.

Well, there's this: And You Call Yourself a Journalist: Wrestling with a Definition of Journalist in Law.

I didn't see anything more recent than this article, although I have trouble believing that this hasn't been formally addressed since 1999 (but haven't done any serious digging, either).

There are countries (I believe Denmark is one) where you can only be hired as a journalist if you have received a degree as one in that country.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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I'd love to read that article but the page asks for money to do so, and I haven't found a free archive of Dickinson Law Review articles anywhere.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I guess the reason I think the financial criterion is so weak is that I, like many people, have done both free and paid writing and do not consider my paid work to be any more legitimate, or any more "journalistic," than my free work. Indeed, it is typical for freelancers to write for a range of outlets at different pay scales knowing that the higher-paying ones will subsidize the lower-paying and free work, which may in turn be of higher quality.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I guess the reason I think the financial criterion is so weak is that I, like many people, have done both free and paid writing and do not consider my paid work to be any more legitimate, or any more "journalistic," than my free work. Indeed, it is typical for freelancers to write for a range of outlets at different pay scales knowing that the higher-paying ones will subsidize the lower-paying and free work, which may in turn be of higher quality.

Of course. And all of this is pretty ill-defined, which is why we're discussing it.

But I consider "journalism" to be a profession.

And much of what defines a profession involves being competent enough at it that someone is willing to pay you for it.

I think that remuneration goes a long way in distinguishing being a "hobbyist" from being a "professional" in almost every discipline.

Including this one.

I mean, that is the generally-accepted distinction, isn't it? Amateur? Hobbyist? Professional?

ETA - And the fact that someone HAS been willing to pay you for it supports my argument. Even if some of the time you choose to do it for free.

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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