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Reason Number 834 Why Bloggers Are Not Necessarily Journos

The question of whether bloggers are journalists is a tired debate. So I’ll make this point short and brief.

Wired has a pretty good article about the FCC launching a new competition to develop apps that would allow consumers to “spy” on their mobile carriers to ensure that the carriers are not throttling or limiting bandwidth and services. This is important in the Net Neutrality debate, for sure, but let me point out something that just sits entirely wrong with my journalistic mind.

Author Ryan Singel does a very good job describing the situation, reporting the facts and injecting very mild bias (I’m okay with that) into his post. Then he gets to the last line of the second to last paragraph (bolded mine):

Hackers and thinkers have until June 1 to submit their work. Both a jury of experts and the public will get to decide the winners, who, as a prize, get to visit D.C. on the FCC’s dime and eat at a banquet with FCC head Julius Genachowski — if he’s not been eaten alive by then by the ascendant Republican congress for imposing rules on the nation’s powerful telecom companies.

Whaaa? Did I miss the point in the article where Wired moved from describing an entirely appropriate tech policy story to angsty political hyperbole? Credibility lost. Try again.

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Journos Go All Capitalistic on Wikileaks

Since the release of the State Department cables by Wikileaks, I’ve sat back and watched as the journalism world has gone through convulsions about the morality of capitalizing on these secrets.

It’s been a fascinating, and illuminating, charade. As the fourth estate, the media would like to portray themselves as an unbiased, objective entity that maintains balance in society. Yet, inherently, the media is just as guilty of self-interest as anyone else in this whole mess.

Yes, the State Department specifically, and the United States (and maybe other) governments would like to keep the lid on the memos. They see their credibility in talking with other nations on the line.

Julian Assange sees this, as pointed out in the great piece by zunguzungu, where Assange is quoted as saying:

Authoritarian regimes give rise to forces which oppose them by pushing against the individual and collective will to freedom, truth and self-realization. Plans which assist authoritarian rule, once discovered, induce resistance. Hence these plans are concealed by successful authoritarian powers. This is enough to define their behavior as conspiratorial.

Assange sees a world where transparent and open government subvert the power and authority of the same government and so there is a natural tendency (he calls it conspiracy) to hide what happens inside.

I agree that this dichotomy exists in some areas of government, but the diplomatic cables are common sense – for all involved. Keep them hidden as there is a potential that revelation can increase safety risks, decrease operational security and reduce negotiation power. Successful negotiations derive from a position of power and everyone knows this. This is not something that amounts to some great conspiracy.

Meanwhile, the media is on the sideline, their power usurped from this rogue operative with a rogue website. Instead of the New York Times or Washington Post benefitting from the receipt of leaked information as has been the case in their traditional past (see Watergate), an upstart “news organization” is stealing their thunder. Sure the Times and a variety of other media outlets were given the data eventually, but the arbiter of information was no longer them.

While the media wrings their hands over a contrived battle between the morality of publishing leaked, national security documents and preservation of national secrets, the bigger capitalistic battle is happening and that overshadows journalistic sense of responsibility.

The ability to be first is being tainted here. While Wikileaks promises to distribute new information, acting as a benevolent dictator, to news organizations, these news organizations are capitulating their responsibilities simply to make sure they have some crumbs off of Assange’s table.

No one, certainly, is suggesting that news outlets should become a lap-dog, as I have heard toss around, of the government, bowing to their every will and whim. Certainly not, lest we live in a Communist system. However, the media is expected to operate in a suitably responsible way.

In this case, the media knows that they are on the outs. In a last gasp of industry-pride, they have sacrificed themselves in a last-ditch effort to remain relevant. Put in another way, they have come to serve themselves instead of the people they exist to serve.

Of course, this hasn’t happened overnight. No, in fact, many years of budget cuts, acquisitions, mergers and staff reductions have caused the media industry to alter how they operate and approach stories. It’s less likely that you’ll have a Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein hitting the trenches to uncover a conspiracy so deep that it reaches the President of the United States. No, that would require far more time and resources – and frankly, better reporters – than exist in todays media.

So with not a thought to their forefathers, the media of the 21st century makes decisions of national security to protect their own industry than serve the constituents who consume their journalism everyday. I wish it weren’t so.

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Journalism: The old is new and the new is old

I love journalism. I love it with a passion. I love good journalism. Well executed journalism. Well researched journalism.

I care less about the AP Style Guide and more about engaging content. I care less about J-school degrees and more about thoughtful and provocative prose with a dedication to facts. I care less about conglomerate media organizations and more about the reporters, writers and personalities who make up CNN and the New York Times of the world.

I am just a blogger. I have been writing for over six years and I’ve swung from the “new media will kill old media” mode to “new media and traditional (I don’t call it old anymore) media” have a place together. Still, many bloggers (and social media people as a whole) get locked in an us and them struggle with their traditional peers. We see it in the music industry, in access to sports, in public relations and marketing, etc. Everyone loves the us vs. them argument.

Here’s the dirty little secret though: Without ‘them’, there is no ‘us’ and without ‘us’ there is no ‘them’. We are married together for the future of the industry forever. And that goes for all industries where these conversations happen.

What really is happening is a separation of the power brokers from the base of power. In other words, in public relations, professionals at the agencies go about their mindless drone job of push, push, push without ever really talking, tracking, monitoring or engaging the demographic they are trying to reach.

In the NFL, for years the clubs engaged in tactics with bloggers that delegitimized the coverage they were receiving and, in fact, the public was consuming… only because bloggers typically didn’t write for large media organizations.

In fact, Jay Rosen, a Professor at the New York University School of Journalism (And one of the smartest, most insightful journalism critics I know of), characterized this problem on Twitter by observing how the White House Press Corps engages.

Indeed. Though one could ask why the White House Press Corps would communicate directly with the public instead of with the White House, where their job is. Nonetheless, the greater point that is being made is that Traditional media that communicates with the base of power (the citizens and customers) is generally able to perform their art in a more meaningful way.

New Media exists to bridge a gap. We will never replace traditional journalism. On the other hand, traditional journalism will never eliminate new media. The bigger question is… why would either side want to do those things at all?