Sunday, October 14, 2007

Journalism: Form or content?

As I was standing at the head of a classroom yesterday, watching Michael Wesch's Web 2.0 ... The Machine is Us/ing Us for the umpteenth time, I had a minor epiphany.

It was about halfway through, when you see on the screen [Title] does not define the form. It defines the content.

And I thought, you know, it's the same with journalists. It's what you do that makes you a journalist, not who you work for, or where your work is published or broadcast, or how it's distributed.

I'd just been talking about this very issue with my colleague Steve Sloan, a fellow blogger and my co-presenter at yesterday's JACC Norcal conference at SJSU (that's him at left). The night before, we'd both heard veteran broadcaster Sam Donaldson "diss" bloggers as he spoke at the RTVJ 50th Anniversary Reunion dinner.

Blogging is just opinion, Donaldson said, and without editors, how do you know if it's fact or fiction?

But when Donaldson offered his definition of a journalist, he didn't say anything about editors. He said, "We try to present our readers, our viewers, with things we believe to be true." Sometimes you make mistakes, he added, but if you do you correct them.

I didn't hear anything in that definition that would preclude a blogger from being a journalist, Sloan said.

And some of the mainstream media aren't exactly doing a great job of reporting the truth these days, I added. Does this mean they're not really journalists?

So in the middle of our JACC presentation on Podcasting, Blogging and New Journalism, as I listened once again to the Web 2.0 video, it hit me: [Journalism] does not define the form, it defines the content. It's what you do, not who you work for.


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