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Bloggers Are Not Journalists

Posted by Michael Bloch in online world (Sunday December 11, 2011 )

I’ve been blogging since before the term was invented. I’ve never considered myself a journalist, but many bloggers see themselves that way. It could be a dangerous mindset.

Journalists enjoy quite a few freedoms in many countries and bloggers sometimes mistakenly think they have all of the same privileges.

For example, a judge in Oregon has ruled a blogger is not a journalist and cannot claim the same protections as mainstream reporters and news services, such as the right journalists have to protect sources.

The merits and circumstances of the particular case in question aside, I think it would be dangerous for all bloggers to have those rights.

It’s so easy to say something like “according to an inside source, Mr. X eats babies and collects panda eyeballs.” These so-called “inside sources” may not exist.

Sure, there are quite a few bloggers that would give any journalist a run for their money in terms of quality and investigative reporting skills (I’m certainly not one of them), but every Tom, Dick or Harry seems to be a blogger of sorts these days and affording all bloggers with these protections would just be a recipe for trouble.

If a blogger wants the same protections as a journalist, then they need to become one, or work under the shelter of a mainstream news outlet. In doing either, they will be compelled (or should be) to observe certain ethics and principles in their reporting – with consequences if these are not adhered to. The same can’t be said for blogging in general.

It’s getting increasingly difficult to sort fact from fabrication online these days and if the message gets out that simply by referring to yourself as a blogger you can say anything you like, facts will become even hard to discern from fiction.

Many reputations and businesses have been ruined by others with an axe to grind. People embellish, exaggerate or just flat-out lie in order to achieve whatever end they have their sights set on. Bloggers of course aren’t the only offenders – visit any forum and you’ll likely see all sorts of venomous statements being made.

However, some journalists engage in witch hunts too – and while they are journalists by profession, it’s not journalism they engage in when they do.

Unfortunately, I think its those sorts of journalists that some bloggers learned their craft from and perhaps some of the newer breed of journalists are now learning from bloggers. It’s really threatening the credibility of the profession; and perhaps those additional privileges too.

Anyway, the Oregon story is also just a reminder that we need to be careful what we publish. Freedom of speech is not freedom from accountability. Freedom from accountability is the worst form of anarchy in my opinion.


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