16 May 2006 As Justice Potter Stewart Said, “…I Know It When I See It
Not that anyone asked, but I have to agree with Danny Glover of Beltway Blogroll about John McCain’s joke about bloggers.
As Danny describes it:
Here’s what McCain said: “When I was a young man, I was quite infatuated with self-expression, and rightly so because, if memory conveniently serves, I was so much more eloquent, well-informed, and wiser than anyone else I knew. It seemed I understood the world and the purpose of life so much more profoundly than most people. … It’s a pity that there wasn’t a blogosphere then. I would have felt very much at home in the medium.”
It was a joke, for heaven’s sake.
Besides, Danny’s right when he says:
Furthermore, while not all bloggers consider themselves “much more eloquent, well-informed and wiser than anyone else,” many of them certainly write as if they think that way. Humility in word is not a trait found frequently in the blogosphere. Bloggers — like good MSM columnists — write with boldness, and their words exude an unwavering confidence in their own ideas and opinions. If that were not the case, nobody would read them.
Can you imagine anyone reading for long a policy or politics blog written by someone who was afraid to report a fact or opinion with confidence?
I can’t, however, really go for Danny’s view about bloggers not being journalists. Following the Glover Law that bloggers must write with boldness or fall into obscurity, I shall submit that we should not label the person doing the writing, but instead brand the work.
I propose a standard that says an accurate, unbiased, evenhanded and comprehensive report of facts should be referred to journalism, and the author a “journalist” because he wrote it — not because of the medium in which it was published, if the author was compensated or if he was employed by a publishing organization.
Journalists — as others said before me — do not have formal professional standards. Unlike doctors or lawyers, they can’t lose their license if they commit malpractice. You can become a journalist just by saying you’re one.
A really good, factual piece of unbiased reporting labels its author far more than any masthead or press card ever will.
Consider: A person who writes a fair, informative, unbiased article and posts it on his blog currently is called a “blogger”; a person who turns tidbits fed him by celebrities’ flacks into glowing articles for popular-culture newsweeklies is called a “journalist.” Yet, of these two, which person committed journalism?
Of course, we could use a different set of examples to illustrate the opposite.
On another occasion, Danny Glover quoted cartoonist Ted Rall saying:
Bloggers… don’t have sources, they don’t report, and no one holds them accountable when they make mistakes or flat out lie.
Too-often true about bloggers; too-often true about journalists. Zero-sum example.
When it comes to identifying a “journalist,” the work labels the author; the author doesn’t label the work.