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February 4, 2005

Are Bloggers Journalists?

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Nice piece by Randy Dotinga in The Christian Science Monitor summarizing the issues about to be argued as Apple sues two bloggers for spilling what Apple calls secrets. Dotinga's story focuses on the question of whether the bloggers may be shielded under California statutes that protect journalists.

That's obviously of no small interest to the bloggers being sued, but there are larger implications. In particular, bloggers may yet force the mainstream social consciousness to reconsider its view of what makes something news and what makes something reporting. This view has been under occasional challenge from places like the Drudge Report over political events, but these seem to fade as quickly as they burst on the scene.

Dotinga notes that the blogs' claimed readership puts them ahead of many recognized paper publications. So if it's not readership size that makes a journalist, perhaps it's the structure of a newspaper. But it seems antithetical to our notions of reporting to claim that unless your material is reviewed by an editorial board. Was James Madison not a journalist when he reported on the goings-on in Colonial America? I doubt he had an editor reading his broadsheets.

Perhaps then, the argument goes, bloggers are not journalists because they don't maintain the vaunted "objectivism" of mainstream journalists. If all they're doing is printing what they have opinions about then they're no better than William Safire... oops, scratch that argument.

Maybe it's about the money. Some bloggers talk about things and then take money from companies with an interest in those things. Oh, you mean like Armstrong Williams or Maggie Gallagher? Both of whom have admitted taking money under the table to promote Bush administration propaganda campaigns? We may call them bad journalists (no journalist biscuit) but we don't seem to have any doubts that they are journalists.

It seems to me that what gets under the skins of anti-blog people like Randall Bezanson, quoted at the end of Dotinga's piece, is that blogs fail to follow the familiar hierarchical model that has dominated American media for at least the last two centuries. I mean, really. If you let the people start talking to each other instead of lapping up the corporate consensus pap who knows what kind of trouble will follow.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Speech


1. Aine on February 4, 2005 6:41 PM writes...

Might want to test your trackbacks. Auto-discovery doesn't seem to work and I'm not sure why.

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2. Neo on February 4, 2005 7:53 PM writes...

This is rather odd, but I can't find one of the two (now 3) comments to read it!

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3. Jim Dermitt on February 9, 2005 1:05 AM writes...

Some are and some are not.

I try keeping fact, opinion and analysis separated. If somebody isn’t smart enough to do a thorough analysis based on facts, their opinion won’t have much value. A journalist is paid to gather facts and do analysis. Good journalism forms public opinions and gets people to see right from wrong. The facts are that Maggie has been a marriage expert, researcher, and advocate for nearly 20 years. Her research and expertise is why HHS hired her. She was able to cash in on her commentary. The government has the resources to gather facts and has an army of analysts at their disposal. My opinion is that the grabbing hands grab all they can. Her opinion is worth what it is worth. Maybe Ms. Gallagher is a big Bush contributer and this is how she was paid back, with a nice HHS contract. Big corporations play the same game. When an individual plays the game, the public outcry is tremendous. A corporation donates ten grand, it gets a $30 million contract and nobody even pays attention. She should of held out for more money. She sold herself cheaply. That’s the sin. Armstrong Williams knows how to play this game. He got something like a quarter of a million dollars because everyone does it. Look at what big media companies pay talk radio hosts these days. Maggie may be good enough for government work, but not good enough for television or radio. She may be just like the rest of the struggling masses.

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