Are Bloggers Journalists?
October 17, 2007
Read Write Web (clearly one of my favorite sites judging by how often I link to them) has posed a question to their readers upon reading this post about the Free Flow of Information Act recently passed by the House of Representatives (via Ars Technica).
The gist of this bill is that it’s a journalistic shield, protecting the rights and safety of the press and (yes, Captain Obvious) upholding the first amendment. It would safeguard the civil liberties of any journalist (including bloggers) who get caught up in a federal investigation.
Do I think this bill is a good idea? Of course, and I’m happy to see bloggers included in its protection.*
However, I’m starting to wish there was another word for blogger. Seriously, when someone posting a daily diary online and say, the Huffington Post’s writers are placed in the same category, something is a little off. I don’t want to discount the efforts of personal bloggers, but there’s a certain disparity here. While some bloggers certainly qualify as journalists in my opinion (albeit journalists whose work is colored by their opinions, but I believe we’d be hard-pressed to find a journalist whose work was 100% objective), there are plenty more that are more like hobbyists.
Yes, there should be laws in place protecting the rights of bloggers, but I’m not sure if they belong under the journalistic shield. But perhaps I’m just a little bit mired in the old ways of thinking – after all, if the web, the ultimate free press, has allowed us all to be publishers, why can’t blogging fall under the umbrella of journalism? It’s not as if everything committed to print media is completely serious, objective, and/or perfect (from where I sit, the informality or frivolity of the web as opposed to print seems to the underlying tone of many “blogging vs. journalism” discussions). It’s plain that there needs to be more conversation on this issue.
One more note – shouldn’t we all be protected? After all, just because someone gets a paycheck from a media company doesn’t make them the only ones that can uncover information or be a whistle-blower. In fact, it’s often the ordinary citizens – or the citizen journalists – who are capable of exposing all sorts of things. Besides, in a world where traditional media is losing ground rapidly to the web, the definition of journalist is really getting murky.