A Journalist Defined?

By Posted in - Media Relations & Social Media & Technology on January 4th, 2012 0 Comments

I work with a lot of media relations contacts throughout the day.  Many are bloggers who report on a variety of trends, announcements and events in the industries our agency’s clients serve.  I respect them and treat them just as I do any print or television reporter – yet, bloggers are being subject to narrow definitions of journalism, which seemingly don’t allow them the same rights as a more “traditional” reporter.

On page 9 of a 13-page ruling, Judge Hernandez last month set out the following requirements an individual must meet to qualify as a journalist:

  1. Education in journalism
  2. Credentials or proof of affiliation with a recognized news entity
  3. Proof of adherence to journalistic standards such as editing, fact-checking, or disclosures of conflicts of interest
  4. Keeping notes of conversations and interviews conducted
  5. Mutual understanding or agreement of confidentiality between the defendant and his/her sources
  6. Creation of an independent product rather than assembling writings and postings of others
  7. Contacting “the other side” to get both sides of a story

Besides #2, I could practically consider myself a journalist.  There are many individuals out there who meet fewer of the requirements listed above but are using online tools to tell great stories, report about issues that are important to them and creating conversations with people who share similar interests – all in an ethical way.

In, A Broader Definition of Journalism by Ellyn Angelotti, she sums it up quite nicely:

“But it shouldn’t matter whether the person calls himself a journalist or not, nor where he publishes a story. The quality of the story and the integrity of the method of reporting should count. By that standard, some bloggers would qualify as journalists while some deadwood reporters at newspapers would fail.”

I studied journalism in college.  I actually received a minor in it and wanted to be an investigative journalist for a time (ha! I don’t have skin thick enough for that…) Even though print media has changed quite a bit over the past few years, while trying to figure out how social media tools and online outlets can complement (or crush) their business, I still feel that journalism is an activity that should be held with the highest respect.

Journalists bring news and issues directly to our fingertips – but now there are more ways to do it than leaving a newspaper at your door.

I think this is an issue that will continue to be discussed until we can create a definition that places importance on values and intent, rather than a degree and news affiliate.

As far as I’m concerned, I know how important bloggers are in helping me get a client’s message delivered to the right audience – and I’ll continue to enjoy working with them while we’re continuing this conversation.

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