Yesterday, my mom tried to convince me to hop a plane to Oklahoma in order to blog on the recent tornado’s devastating aftermath there. According to her, traditional news outlets weren’t doing justice to the coverage and a real writer (her words, not mine) was needed to get the job done right. After assuring her that there were plenty of bloggers, vloggers and other citizen journalists already on the ground– not to mention a slew of local news organizations doing a great job in Oklahoma, she accepted that I had enough work to do here without flying out to find more. Still, her sentiments made me think twice about the bazillion conversations I’ve heard over the years about turf wars brewing between bloggers and journalists.
“We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Ideas About Media to Bring You a Fresh Idea Known as Blogging!”
Ever since blogging began to gain momentum toward the end of the 20th century, people have had opinions about whether or not bloggers should share the same level of respect as journalists. Both report news and events; both have their works electronically published and both can earn a living by properly applying their skills. While most journalists have studied hard and paid good money for college degrees that underscore their talents and discipline, there’s no age, experience or educational prerequisite for blogging. Though many bloggers do have college degrees (some even have journalism degrees), it’s understandable that trained journalists would not want to share media recognition with someone who hasn’t paid their proverbial dues to the media industries in terms of education and job experience.
Increasingly, bloggers are being recognized for their efforts, however. Often they are granted the same type of special media access typically reserved for trained journalists and blogs are often the go-to source for live breaking news, such as what was seen during the Arab Spring. In many minds, the attention paid to bloggers on the ground, especially in places where traditional journalists are stifled, serves in further blurring the lines between what is authentic journalism and what is not.
Blogging From the Bottom Of the Barrel
As a blogger and a fan of reality television, I was intrigued by the unfolding of a similar conversation about blogging vs. journalism in recent episodes of VH1’s Gossip Game series. While the show highlights the challenges of seven women working in various facets of urban media– namely magazine publishing, radio broadcasting, journalism and blogging– a lot of infighting took place between the women over who is and who isn’t a journalist. Debate also ensued regarding the perceptions of many that bloggers are not only NOT on the same level as journalists and other media professionals, but are at the bottom of the barrel in any conversation involving public media.
Two Journalists, Two Perspectives, One Medium
It was quite enlightening to watch the arguments between Jas Fly and Sharon Carpenter, two formally trained journalists on the show. Having been in the industry for a number of years and having worked for several mainstream news brands such as CBS and the BBC, Sharon Carpenter quite early made it a point to distinguish herself as a true journalist. Jas Fly, a freelance journalist with fewer years on the circuit than Sharon didn’t seem to have a problem with this until she felt Sharon made an attempt to downplay her status as a journalist since Jas’ work has largely appeared online. In one discussion, in particular, Jas commented that while Sharon may have more years and hardcore news credentials under her designer belt (all of the girls are fashionably fabulous on the show), the fact is that, today, both women currently work in online media. Sharon Carpenter is employed by the urban entertainment website Global Grind which Jas Fly was quick to point out as existing on a very leveled playing field with many of the websites that she freelances for.
Shade Tree Journalists?
The two bloggers on the show, Vivian and Ms. Drama, also received a bit of shade from a couple of the other cast members. An argument was even made (and dismantled) that the demarcation between the two careers is that journalists perform considerable fact-checking before reporting a story where it was falsely assumed that bloggers do not. Repeatedly, on the show and in real life, however, it has been proven that journalists are not always the most thorough fact-checkers and that some bloggers actually are.
Following the on-air sparring matches between women intent on garnering respect for their career choices, others in the media industry chimed in with their opinions on Twitter and throughout the blogosphere. A number of interesting thoughts were shared with many pointing out that radio, television and print journalists often rely on bloggers to get information that mainstream professionals simply don’t have access to (such as what is often seen in civil uprisings around the world), as well as juicy tidbits from those who have behind-the-scene-off-the-record access to celebrity gossip and other inside information.
Certainly, every blogger cannot automatically be considered a journalist. I mean, blogging runs the gamut from sites that exist for work at home moms to those that help authors sell books to those that highlight special writing and editing services. I imagine that there are as many hardcore news blogs on the web as there are those dedicated to cute cats. Of those that are fact-based, hard-hitting information blogs, however, I am left to wonder…
Is Citizen Journalism Real Journalism, After All?
So what do you think, dear readers? Is there a clear line between journalism and blogging? Should there be? Should journalists and bloggers be afforded the same respect? Tell us your thoughts in the space provided below.
Oh and One Last Thing!
Don’t forget to check the High Desert Bloggers out this weekend at the San Bernardino County Fair where we’ll be live-blogging and answering all of your questions about starting a blog for business promotion or personal joy. RelyLocal has invited us to be at their table right at the Fair’s main entrance so you can’t miss us. Come on out and say hello and also find out about the incredible shop local movement underway here in the High Desert.