Medium specific

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.

5 Replies to “Medium specific”

  1. Two things – one: The best blogs I have come across are generally written by journalists. Okay, so they’re writers first and foremost so it shouldn’t be an issue. But I think the rare chance to offer opinions is such a break with tradition that they really embrace the format – especially one without tight deadlines and wordcounts.

    Two: Thanks for the refreshing and reassuring analysis of digital journalists as journalists. Since switching from print-only to digital sports journalism, I’ve found myself shrugging off what I do as ‘only digital’ to the print types I work alongside who I feel look down on what I am here for because of an inherent internal reference point of journalism equals print. End of.
    I love the immediacy of the web and am itching to launch the AV sections once we get the equipment (fantastic course BTW) – but, having been effectively banned from writing and subbing in print, it is easy to feel somewhat castrated as a journalist. Especially after winning a sports writing award days after switching to digital.
    I feel licensed to feel like a proper journalist again now. So thanks.

    Last point – we live in an ‘all that glitters’ era. Maybe some online awards woudl give multimedia journalists something to aspire to, the industry a benchmark to aim for and the print fascists a fresh look at the industry and its endless possibilities.

  2. Thanks for the comment Claire (I haven’t forgotten about the DVD btw.)

    You raise some good points here, from the coal face. I think it’s a shame that those working in digital often feel sidelined. One part of me feels like it’s just a waiting game. Stick at it long enough and those who are refusing to acknowledge the reality will die away. The humanitarian in me feels like we should do everything we can to help bring them on board.

    Awards would be great, proper awards rather than a few categories at the end of a list of backslaps for columnists. If the Pulitzers can recognise online what more do we need to do.

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