Tuesday, March 20, 2007

PD on Who Is a Jounalist

The Plain Dealer story is up. The reporter quotes to one blogger -- Tom Blumer at BizzyBlog. They talk to a bunch of journalism professors who -- surprise -- cling to an old media mindset:

    "I can go work on your car, take the gas cap off and look at the carburetor, but in no way does that make me a mechanic," said Hendrickson, an assistant professor of mass communications at John Carroll University.

    Media lawyers fear the issue will prompt changes in the state's shield law, which protects reporters from testifying before grand juries and trial juries about matters involving confidential sources.

    "This certainly has the potential to affect it," said Timothy Smith, a media-law professor at Kent State University. The shield law "could be broadened so much that the legislature steps in and does something about it. Seldom is that ever good."
Even more than journalists, journalism professors have a vested interest in perpetuating the fiction that journalism is something other than learning about stuff and writing it down. Fact is, journalism isn't brain surgery. Or, for that matter, auto mechanics.


Bill Sloat said...

Pho --

After reading John's story in The Plain Dealer -- my old and beloved employer -- I am taking the day off and maybe the week off and working in my yard and plastering my house. I feel like people who work at newspapers, or worked at newspapers as profs, are defining journalism, and they are, it looks to me, selfishly defining it to mean themselves. They are insiders, we who work the Web are outsiders, and they don't want us inside. I guess we have muddy feet.

This is like the dawn of rock 'n' roll, when the big bands and symphonies didn't want to recognize the kids and blacks with electric guitars, saxes and drums as musicians. Sure the kids were raw. But they left the others in their dust.

And, of course, there is the whole short shrift thing in that we keep seeing in the papers -- quote "experts" who are wedded to the old and not dancing to the new.

Of course, that said, there is a beautiful temple to rock music that wound up in Cleveland even though it honors a form that wasn't considered "music" by the purists when the sound caught the public's fancy. Wonder how it got there.

Old newspaper saying comes to mind: We'll cover the crucifixion but miss Christianity.

Jill said...

Totally apropos, Bill. And if you need house fixups to add to the list, let me know! Though I'd rather you write.

Pho said...

Yea Bill, I agree with Jill. When the MSM throws condescending barbs like this, I feel like we need more of blogs like Daily Bellwether, not less.

Paul said...

It's kind of like letting educators define what is an appropriate public school model!

I am not a legal scholar, but it seems significant to me that in the actual handwriting of the Bill of Rights (as displayed by the National Archives), the word "press" is not capitalized, as compared to the word "State" in 2nd Amendment. That suggests to me that the Founders did not consider the existance of a formal entity called "The Press" as much as it demanded that no one with a printing press should be censured. In that vein, a blog is no different that a printing press in a back shed, and a blogger is no different than a pamphleteer.

I am reminded of a question a mentor once asked: "What is a leader?" I answered with a bushel basket of words. His answer? "A leader has followers." I think this can be applied here as well. Q: "Who is a member of the press?" A: "Anyone who has readers."


Jill said...

I like that last line, Paul!

BizzyBlog said...

FWIW, what the PD guy wrote about me was the net result of at least 10 minutes of back and forth where he was IMO trying to bait me into trying to claim that any blogger with a keyboard is a journalist.

I was having none of it. As noted, I referred him to the two possible dictionary definitions.

I also noted (and he ignored) the Apple v. blogger court case in CA (a slam-dunk win for a blogger who the court said did not have to reveal his source about inside Mac stuff).

I also noted (and he ignored) my mention of the case in SF where a blogger is, I think, still in jail because he won't turn over video from a demonstration to the police.

I believe I mentioned 1-2 other blog controversies, and he obviously did nothing with those either. One of them: I noted that Ohio bloggers are agitating to have presence in the Ohio Statehouse to the same things (committee meetings, etc.) that reporters do.

John the PD reporter/journalist was clearly leaning readers in the direction that "journalists" at "newspapers" have special privileges that "mere bloggers" don't. I'm not buying that. I DO believe that beat reporters at publications like the PD have a special duty, if you will, to report stories fully, accurately, and without bias (as much as possible). Bloggers should also be fair in what they cover, but get to express their opinions, like op-ed writers.

I think the best answer to this in general is that "journalists," or "bloggers," or anyone else who wants to hang a title on himself or herself shouldn't have any more or fewer access privilieges than ordinary citizens.