An interesting debate (or none debate as some would have it) is playing out across a number of blog’s this week. My in point was Martin Stabe’s answer to a student asking:”Is blogging a valid form of journalism”.
The question had got around to a number of the online journalism fraternity, including Dan Gilmour. His answer:
An equivalent question would be: Is publishing on paper a valid form of journalism?
Blogging is simply a publishing method — a website.
Some blogs are clearly journalism. Most are not. The bloggers who are doing journalism are for the most part following standard journalistic principles such as thoroughness, accuracy, fairness and independence as well as transparency.
A very neat answer, but it still generated the usual amount of huffing and blowing about what journalism ‘really’ is in response.
I find the fact that we are still having this debate disheartening. Not because we shouldn’t debate it – journalists like nothing better than chewing the same fat again and again – but because it indicates how far we have yet to go in the understanding of what the medium means.
Glimour asks “Is publishing on paper a valid form of journalism?”
That’s the key point in this debate for me. Do we define what we do by the medium we work in rather than what we do? Are we print or TV first and journalists second.
As Gilmour points out it’s just a publishing method. But I suspect that’s what makes it difficult for some to accept. They are all just a publishing method . Taking that view relegates all outputs to the same starting position. One is no more or less important in their own right, they all have their use.
That’s heresy if you are one of the ‘defined by where I work not what I am brigade’, but it’s liberating if you are ‘defined by what I am not where I work’.
If you are a journalist first, there are exciting opportunities in medium free content creation. If you are a print person or a TV person only, there is nothing but competition.
If we can move in to that ‘journalist first’ mindset then we can have an honest debate about what works in the new digital environment. We can base that on an understanding that all mediums impact on the content we produce not just pick at one.
The online medium doesn’t reduce all content to hot off the presses, mistake filled news briefs just as print doesn’t expand every article in to a well rounded commentary, dripping in meaning and context. Journalists do that.
Surely discussing what it means to be a journalist in a digital age is a more interesting debate to have.