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April 21, 2005
Stand Alone Journalists?

Jay Rosen at Pressthink publishes an article from Chris Nolan which attempts to distinguish between bloggers and those who use the blogging mechanism to act as self-publishing journalists. Nolan calls the latter "stand alone journalists" and argues for a distinction between the two:

These are not bloggers. They are people who are using blogging technology--software that allows them to quickly publish their work and broadcast it on the Internet--to find and attract users. They understand that the barrier to entry in this new business isn't getting published; anyone can do that. The barrier to entry is finding an audience. That's why their editorial product is consistent, reliable and known. Readers have expectations and stand alone journalists understand this and put that understanding into practice.

So what--exactly--is a stand alone journalist? That's a definition that's going to vary with the person, of course, just as no group or reporters can really agree on what makes a "journalist." For me, a stand alone journalist is someone who works to get the stories they find interesting told in an honest and forthright manner without the benefit of working for a larger news outlet. That doesn't mean they're objective or impartial; it means they're honest about their points of view or assumptions. A stand alone journalist understands that the main job is to inform readers; and the ethics that salaried journalists have when it comes to fairness, accuracy and honesty aren't just phrases. They're a discipline for doing the work that needs to be done: getting your facts right, your assumptions validated, your arguments well grounded.

Chris makes an interesting argument, and perhaps a distinction needs to be made between on-line diarists and those who want to work in the information business. The former would involve those who use services like LiveJournal for the purpose intended -- to keep their friends informed of personal events, discuss likes and dislikes, and post pictures of their kids, cats, and work environs. The latter would be people like Chris Nolan, Joshua Michah Marshall, Glenn Reynolds, and perhaps me, as Jay commented to me in an e-mail.

The only problem is that the SAJs that use the blogging mechanism tend to blur the line themselves between the two. I sometimes write about the First Mate, the Little Admiral, and my personal likes and dislikes apart from any real impulse to provide news or analysis to my readers, and the same can be said of Glenn, who under Chris' definition would at least qualify as a stand-alone wire service to the blogosphere. Marshall and Nolan probably do less of it than Glenn and I, while others do more but still get good blog scoops on a regular basis.

Perhaps the better way to create distinctions isn't by labelling the blog or the blogger but the post or the thread. There are times when I perform stand-alone journalism; other times, I'm a self-published pundit; the small amount left amounts to a very poorly secured diary. The revolution in newsroom thinking won't be an acknowledgement that a handful of bloggers are stand-alone journalists. It will come when people finally realize that all bloggers can be stand-alone journalists if and when they choose to be.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 21, 2005 6:01 AM

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» Blogs, Bloggers and the Blogosphere from blogbudsman.blog-city.com
As the media of blogging continues to expand exponentially it has rocked the boat of what was considered mainstream journalism, has become big business, titillated Federal Regulators and has developed its own conscious .Mainstay blogger Captain Ed [Read More]

Tracked on May 5, 2005 7:24 AM



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