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March 10, 2005
More Media Voices For The Blogosphere

Two more columnists today use their platforms to argue for the blogosphere and the equal treatment of bloggers as part of the national media. Both use the Apple case as an example of the differing treatment given to self-publishing citizen journalists/pundits. Jacob Weisberg of Slate writes today that a journalist doesn't get made by an HR department or a university program, but by the quality of the writer:

[M]any old-line journalists have tried to define their work in a ways that exclude the new aspirants. Insitutionalized journalists argue that bloggers don't do conventional reporting, aren't accurate, aren't responsible, or aren't paidand hence are not genuine reporters. They fret that the current influx of amateurs will undermine professional standards or that seasoned professionals will be unfairly brought down by an electronic lynch mob, as some posit that Dan Rather of CBS and Eason Jordan of CNN were.

Disregard all such self-interested whining. The breakdown of what once were formidable barriers to entry in the field of journalism is good news for democracy as a whole and for the press itself. The great cacophony of voices in the blogosphere means that more views are being represented, that more subjects are being examined in detail, and that more sunlight shines into institutions of all kinds. Thousands of bloggers ranting from their soapboxes mean that our political culture encompasses bracing debate about everything people disagree about. If you don't like this raucous clamor emanating from cyberspace, you're not really comfortable with democracy. ...

[T]hose who advocate a special legal privilege for journalists must accept that anyone who thinks he's a journalist is a journalist, and figure out how to protect the activity rather than a defined group of people. Properly understood, journalism has never been simply a trade or a profession. In a democracy like ours, it's a basic right.

Weisberg has it exactly correct. Journalism is a craft, one learned through experience rather than in lectures. While a college degree in any field certainly gives one a well-earned boost, it hardly should pass as a certification or exclusion from a craft. One cannot argue, for example, that self-published authors are something other than authors, despite the lack of affiliation of a mainstream publishing house. That issue might go to credibility, marketability, or a presumption of quality, but it has no bearing on the activity itself. In the case of Apple v. Does, for instance, the existing state shield law should recognize the nature of blogging as a journalistic enterprise that serves a common good -- the dissemination of information to the public.

Does that mean the blogosphere can't get one or more wrong now and again? Of course not; pundits get it wrong all the time, even those working professionally in the mainstream media, and they manage to survive it. So will bloggers, explains Jon Carroll in today's San Francisco Chronicle, in writing about Apple's lawsuit and the court's odd decision that left bloggers outside California's shield law:

Bloggers are just columnists without newspapers. Some bloggers, like Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo, are more like reporters with newspapers. The idea that there should be a different legal standard for them is ludicrous. This is all free speech, and this is all journalism. There are fewer newspapers, but there are more blogs. There is a net gain in information. This is a good thing. ...

The stand-alone journalists are here, and they are digging out facts and leading crusades. They are also printing gossip and distorting facts -- but hey, so are we. It is about time that all the media folks began working together for the common good, defending reporters and bloggers in trouble and, by the way, outing our own when they mess up.

Carroll, who owns up to his early-adopter days of online reporting, hits the nail on the head. It would be difficult to describe anything more democratic for mass media than the blogosphere movement, and that should be encouraged, not attacked. Carroll and Weisberg offer a refreshing breath of support to the bloggers who they could just as easily have seen as competitors or enemies. In an environment where the First Amendment appears to be under attack as never before, their principled commitment to free speech and equal treatment is particularly noteworthy.

NOTE: I've created a new category, First Amendment, to cover these issues. Given the hostility of Congress to free speech as exampled by the BCRA, I expect to be writing quite a bit in this category.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 10, 2005 12:26 PM

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» Weisberg is Right from The Dread Pundit Bluto
Discussing the roles of bloggers and journalists, Weisberg, in effect, welcomes bloggers into the journalistic fold. [Read More]

Tracked on March 10, 2005 1:48 PM

» Defending online journalism from New Media Journal
Two MSM columnists argue that bloggers should be considered real journalists. [Read More]

Tracked on March 10, 2005 2:34 PM

» Big Brother vs. Bloggers, Round 7 from Cyber-Conservative
Captain Ed again does his usual great job on this issue. First, in this post, he points out two MSM columnists who believe that blogs deserve the same protection as the rest of the media. Then, later today, he points out that Chris Nolan's recent col... [Read More]

Tracked on March 10, 2005 9:09 PM

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