One of my favorite posts/articles of all time is Am I a science journalist?, from Ed Yong, author of the Not Exactly Rocket Science blog for Discover Magazine. In the post, he addresses the false dichotomy of journalists vs bloggers.
I had my class read it for today, and I can’t wait for the coming discussion.
Yong makes a point I often try to make about the very definitions of “journalism” and “blog.”
When I write for my blog, I do so in exactly the same way as I would for a mainstream organisation. I ask whether stories are worth telling. I interview and quote people. I write in plain English. I provide context. I fact-check… a lot. I do not use press releases, much less copy them. I don’t even own pajamas.
My point, and it has been said many times before, is that blogs are simply software. They are a channel, a medium, a container for all sorts of things including journalism. Meanwhile, journalism is a craft. It is about involving accuracy, the collection of information, the telling of stories, that can be practiced anywhere by anyone with the right set of skills. It is not a newspaper. It is not a job title.
Journalism is a process. A method of collecting, verifying and sharing information. There’s no certification necessary, and no membership card required.
I tend to define journalism broadly and inclusively. But even when defined narrowly, the definition needs to be separated from its form of publication. Surely we can all agree that whether or not a specific piece of content counts as journalism is not contingent on whether it appears in a traditional news outlet or is created by someone employed by a traditional news outlet.
So if we get that argument out of the way, can we please be less uptight about what journalism is, and let go entirely of trying to identify who is a journalist?
Back to Yong, who shares this useful analogy:
So are these people all journalists? Here, I find it helpful to think of modern journalism in terms of mental disorders. The field of mental health is moving away from sharply defined diagnoses to spectrums of behaviours. In a similar way, there is a spectrum of journalistic values, norms and techniques, which are present to different extents in different people or even individual pieces of work.
I know I fall somewhere on that spectrum. Am I a journalist? Honestly, I care less about the answer than I once did. I am not being blase – I care very deeply about journalism, but there are few things more boring than journalists arguing over what counts as journalism. We live in a world full of stories, about amazing people doing amazing things and terrible people doing terrible things. I will use every medium I can to tell those stories. I will try to tell them accurately so people aren’t misled. I will try to tell them well so people will listen. If people want to argue about what to call that, that’s fine for them.
I would rather just do it.