Skip to comments.No, licensing journalists isn’t the answer (Dinosaur Media DeathWatch™)
Posted on 09/08/2011 6:23:31 AM PDT by abb
Is the media industry in turmoil? Clearly it is, with publishers fighting declines in circulation and advertising revenue, combined with competition from digital-native entities such as blog networks and the democracy of distribution that comes from social-media tools like Twitter and Facebook. Journalism itself is even said to be in jeopardy, or at least the journalism we are used to. So whats to be done? Some are recommending journalists be licensed by some kind of official body, so we can get real journalism from professionals but these kinds of solutions would create even worse problems than the ones they are trying to solve.
In a recent blog post about the TechCrunch affair, in which he describes the back-and-forth between founder Mike Arrington and AOL executives Tim Armstrong and Arianna Huffington over the fate of the blog network, Australian writer Aaron Holesgrove says we are being cheated out of objective journalism. Sites like TechCrunch, he argues, dont really provide journalism at all, but just a series of opinionated (but informed) blog posts about the news. Says Holesgrove:
TechCrunch has never been a source of true journalism in the first place. It is a blog with opinionated and biased content featuring pieces about technology from an informed point of view. While their pieces are news in itself, they are not journalism.
Are bloggers journalists?
And what is journalism? Apparently, Holesgrove defines journalism as being solely the pursuit of and presentation of objective facts: something he doesnt seem to think most bloggers are capable of. At one point, he describes All Things Digital writer Kara Swisher and TechCrunch writer Paul Carr as journalists acting like bloggers, but then adds later that he doesnt think Carr is a journalist at all because he isnt objective. After some more back-and-forth about TechCrunch, the author then comes to the conclusion that we have an objective journalism problem.
Much of this seems like confusion over what bloggers do and what journalists do, a debate that has been going on more or less since the blog as we know it was first invented. Are there journalists who write objective facts about events? Yes. Are there bloggers who do the same? Clearly there are. Are there journalists who write opinions about events or news? Yes and there are plenty of bloggers who do the same. What distinguishes these two groups? Not much, except perhaps the publishing platform they use, or the name on the masthead of the entity they work for.
Holesgrove isnt the only one trying to figure out what exactly the term journalism refers to, or should refer to: Dave Winer, who pioneered both blogging and programming tools like RSS and is a visiting scholar at New York Universitys school of journalism, came up with his own definition after a recent debate with me (and others such as author and journalism professor Jeff Jarvis), and it too describes what most people would call reporting something thats arguably just a subset of what journalism refers to.
Chris Anderson, a media researcher and associate professor at the City University of New York, has also written about what journalism means in a digital era where publishing is as simple as the click of a mouse button. Does it just mean publishing information of some kind, or is it more than that? Winers definition, for example, doesnt really include curation such as that practiced by NPR journalist Andy Carvin a crucial part of what journalism has become. Carvin has talked about how even non-journalists can engage in random acts of journalism when the need arises. Journalism should be treated like a utility
So what is Holesgroves solution to this alleged objective journalism problem? He says journalism should be treated like a utility, and some kind of government or industry body should license journalists to practice in the same way that hydro workers and others who work for various utilities are regulated.
[T]he industry needs a firm line drawn between what is journalism and what is not and a little bit of intervention by a higher power could solve the whole issue in one simple stroke: Its time to start thinking about journalism as a utility utilities are identified as being essential to our daily operation of life and practicing professionals need to be licensed in those fields in order to protect the integrity of the utility.
Holesgrove isnt the only one with this kind of idea: The culture minister in the Canadian province of Quebec recently discussed creating a new law that would legislate who could be a professional journalist as opposed to what the minister called amateur bloggers. While the criteria for admission to the professional category werent clearly described, the government said it wanted to identify those journalists who were dedicated to serving the public interest, and anyone with the professional rank would enjoy certain privileges such as better access to government sources.
This is the kind of slippery slope Holesgroves argument would take us down: a slope that leads to the government deciding who is a journalist and who isnt, and therefore who deserves to be given certain information and who doesnt. Is that the kind of world we want to live in? I certainly dont. For better or worse, we now live in a world in which as online-media pioneer Dan Gillmor said recently you are your own gatekeeper, and you now get to decide whom you trust for information.
Is the media industry in turmoil? Sure it is. And everywhere you look there are amateur bloggers causing trouble by disobeying the supposed laws of journalism whether by quoting anonymous sources or engaging in conflicts of interest, or a hundred other things that real journalists supposedly never do. But licensing some small group of journalists and excluding others would not resolve any of those issues (although it might reduce the numbers of people engaging in them). All it would do is restrict the amount of information available, and thats a much bigger problem.
Before you license journalists you might want to repeal the first amendment.
A license is nothing more than a way to eliminate your competition using the force of law and the barrel of a gun.................
This would be funny if it did not represent such a threat to our right to free speech, and if such a requirement was not right up the narcissist-in-chief's alley.
It occurs to me that given a stupid and corrupt enough congress (and we HAVE given ourselves exactly that), some kind of law requiring journalists to be licensed by the FCC might actually have a chance of getting passed during an Obama administration... strictly in the name of “fairness”, mind you.
They’ve already found a way to license the second amendment, now they want to license the first amendment. If they get away with that, how soon will they want to be the ones to decide what is a “real” church and start licensing religions?
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I don't think it's supposed to be limited to "journalists," but then I am not a megalomaniac.
The first amendment applies only to hand operated single sheet, hand operated printing presses. It doesn't apply to fully automatic, high speed presses of today. And it certainly doesn't apply to "street sweeper" internet posts. < /applying anti-second amendment "logic" to the first amendment>
Every time someone complains about bloggers and amateur journalists, we need to shout about the effects of Buckhead and the famous post #47 which brought down "professional" journalist Dan Rather in 2004. The journalists have become a self-protecting guild and only voices from the wilderness can proclaim the truth.
“I’m sorry sir, you’re not authorized to either have an opinion or ask a question.”
“You’re under arrest!”
< What is a whore? A woman who performs a sex act for cash. So then, what is a prostitute, a call-girl, an escort, a courtesan? And what's the difference between a crack whore, who does 20 men a night at $10 bucks each, to feed her habit, and the $5000/night lady of Elliot Spitzer's dreams.
And what of the woman who accepts no cash, but allows herself to be flown to exotic locals, wined and dined at the best places, and then showered with baubles from the best jewelers? In return, she knows what is "eeeeexpected" of here..
These are all far more relevant questions than "what makes a journalist?"
Excellent point, thanks for posting!
Obama would love licensed journalist, it would allow them to shutdown so much of the internet.
It's too late.
If liberal elites outlaw our speech - restricting 'speech' only to "licensed" elites, we still have iphones, ipads, blogs that will appear and disappear quickly. We understand technology. They can't suppress everything.
The real reason newspapers are dying is because when the truth started coming out - they were exposed as purveyors of liberal myths... Their allegiance was to push an agenda at the expense of truth. That understanding - of who they really are - will never go away. It's why in public places when groups are together, the MSM is booed...
Another reason is that most local newspapers just take AP stories, cut them to fit around advertisements and then add the local sports scores and obituaries. There is very little original journalism in the typical local newspaper. If I get access to the original AP story from any source, then I really don't need to read the local paper.
Newspapers might as well wrap their ads with PRNewswire copy - the stuffs free... The original idea behind AP was good - kind of the equivalent of seeing a TV commercial created by whizzbang Madison Avenue firms rather than the local company with a fat used car dealer yelling 'buy from the Big Shade Tree dealer" or some such garbage. But it doesn't matter because it's all part of the same liberal elite groupthink. AP makes the 'sell' look better - just as Madison Ave does with ads - but not more truthful - and it's all from the same point of view.
There was a time when reporters came from blue collar backgrounds. They knew what was going on in the community because they lived there. Now it's highly educated elites writing for each other. For an in-house rag that would be fine - for a general circulation paper it's the kiss of death.
Your comment about local news is well taken - but again - local news that springs from the same elite liberal group-think isn't going to connect to many readers outside the circle of 'elites'. Yes, Virginia there are Tea Party members in YOUR community. Important stories are missed - and worse, stories the great unwashed know are bogus, are repeated endlessly.
For example, Newspapers support local United Ways. They support the charities involved - the missing children, homeless, abused women, blankets for bums - whatever. Now how truthful is that reporting? Does it reflect what commen people know as the truth? No. The 'missing children' scam disappeared without much comment after it turned out some of the statistics had been ginned up by saying a child who was returned from custodial visitation 10 minutes late was "missing' statistically. Newspapers didn't explain why that one was dropped - from papers or milk cartons. They should have - it would have made an interesting story.
Remember all the 'homeless' stories - with pictures of 'mom, dad, and two blue eyed children' - a sob story that would eat your heart out. Except that family was the exception - used to bleed money from the community but far from the truth. The mentally ill - the drug addicted and criminal wouldn't fit the liberal myth, but their story needs to be told so the problems can be dealt with. And why do so few street people use the 'charities' that are set up to 'serve' them? Reporters talk to their fellow liberal elites running the facilities - and strangely get the exact same story. Same with education. Papers back union teachers and their story gets told. And only their story. Local reporters ONLY add value to a paper if readers feel some truthful understanding is being offered by their writing...(Seriously - give me a topic and I'll tell you how a liberal reporter will cover it - it's that boring) Value doesn't come from elite groupthink rehashing the same stuff endless - from the same position - over and over and over etc etc. ( see how it feels?) For many papers, PRNewwire to wrap around their ads will do just fine.
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And what is journalism? Apparently, Holesgrove defines journalism as being solely the pursuit of and presentation of objective facts: something he doesnt seem to think most bloggers are capable of. At one point, he describes All Things Digital writer Kara Swisher and TechCrunch writer Paul Carr as journalists acting like bloggers, but then adds later that he doesnt think Carr is a journalist at all because he isnt objective. After some more back-and-forth about TechCrunch, the author then comes to the conclusion that we have an objective journalism problem.Nobody can know that they themselves are objective. There are people who are trying to be objective, and there are those who are not even trying to be objective, but there is no one who is objective and knows it. Anyone who claims to be objective, or who presumes to know who else is objective, is not objective about themselves. But it is possible to discern that some people are not even trying to be objective. Anyone who claims to be objective, or claims that members of their own group are objective, is at that moment avoiding the painful humility which is the sine qua non for attempting objectivity.
Anyone who thinks themselves qualified to license "objective journalists" is making no attempt to be objective. The trouble is that "objective journalism" is actually consensus wire service journalism.
Check out MeMaw Kate Graham’s granddaughter in post 18.