Bloggers and journalists

I’m a couple of hundred pages into to Dan Gillmor’s We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People. Gillmor is technology columnist for the San Jose Mercury News, and his column runs in many other U.S. newspapers. He has been consistently listed by industry publications as among the most influential journalists in his field.

Our company owns and operates several state and regional radio news networks and I thought they might find the book interesting so I forwarded the Amazon review, which made reference to blogging. One of our news directors quickly responded:

“I don’t quite buy the idea that bloggers are journalists. They might be journal-writers or journal-keepers, but a blogger is a talk show host who usually thinks somebody should be interested in what he or she has to say, whether it’s correct, accurate, based on facts… or not. Blogging has some major integrity issues that make it more entertainment than trustworthy information. I still need sources I can trust, and blogs don’t reach that level yet.”

First of all, nobody has suggested –certainly not Dan Gillmor– that all bloggers are journalists. As it happens, Mr. Gillmor writes a blog and is a highly respected journalist. Does he have “integrity issues?” Speaking of which…

A few year back we had a reporter working in one of our newsrooms that was doing a lot of anti-gun stories. When I asked him about it, he said he felt he had to do these to “balance out” the (paid) NRA ads that were currently airing on our network. Then there was the report (same newsroom) that left us become the PR flack for the state Republican party. In his first public statement he said he could no long remain silent in the face of the threat posed by the liberal Democrats in our state. Talk about integrity issues.

My colleague’s reaction reminds me of the Pharisees’ outrage that this Jesus guy would muscle in on their turf (I’m not a religious guy but I saw Jesus Christ Superstar a couple of times). I should probably disclose that I am not a journalist. At least I don’t think I am. I didn’t go to J-School (I smoked some J’s while in school but…) but I did work at a small town radio station covered the news. I went to city council meetings and hospital board meetings and wrote stories and cut up some tape and did my best to tell people what happened. If we had had the Internet and blogs back then, I might have used that tool as well.

This whole blogger vs. journalist thing has been going on for a while and smarter folks than I have written about it. I have to say the Real Journalists come across a little shrill on the subject. There are thousands (millions?) of blogs out there and very few rise to the level of anything that might be called “journalism.” But the same might be said about what passes for news on a lot of radio stations. So let’s not be too quick to slam the temple doors. We might miss something good.

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