There's a good conversation going on over in the thread replying to my latest screed on the Apple v Does case. I wanted to opine a bit in response to a comment from Seth Finkelstein. He notes that "Journalistic purpose isn't a get-out-of-court-evidence-free card" and that it's a boundary we as society have to draw. He's not arguing where the boundary should be, but I want to, in part because I think the boundary goes right through the middle of me.
(I want to be crystal clear that I'm speaking in this post solely for myself. Not for anyone else who posts here, nor for any other blogger and certainly not for any organization.)
On the one side of this line, I don't think I'm a journalist. In my mind a journalist is someone who reports on, investigates, publicizes events from the world and makes them known to an interested public in the service of making that public informed. I think we American intellectuals agree that one of the ideals of democracy is action and decision taken by an informed public.
But that's not what I do. What I do is point out things other people have done, or said. I give emphasis and weight to what I find worthy, and I push an overt agenda. On this side of the line what I'm doing is much closer to editorial than reportage. What I strive for is less an informed voice than for a sea of voices distinct within the stream of debate.
I don't much like nor respect the current American journalistic notion of "fairness." There are not always two sides to a debate; sometimes there's one or there are many. Nor should a voice be constrained from calling a spade a spade or labeling bullsh*t as bullsh*t. You may notice that the sources I quote from (Cringely, Aharonian, Geist, etc.) are often strongly opinionated. I may not always agree with them, but I respect them trying to take a stand and expand the boundaries of discussion rather than just regurgitating the latest anonymous AP wire item or White House release.
If that's the image, am I journalist? I'd lean towards "no."
But then we get these emails. People read what I write and send me pointers or information. I like getting these emails and I'll often write entries in response to them. If someone mailed me something and asked me to keep their name out of it, I'd do it. Pretty much without thinking. I was brought up watching the Watergate hearings and I believe in the (at least theoretical) power of the press to balance out the powers and expose the corruption of our institutions. I recognize that the ability to have and protect anonymous sources is essential to that function. I believe that any time a reporter gives up a source we weaken the whole structure.
If that's an aspiration, am I a journalist? I'd lean towards "yes."
So, pax Seth. I recognize you're not trying to argue where to draw that boundary. But I think we bloggers had better have this argument, and damned soon.