This past Friday, as I am often wont to do, I got into a discussion on Twitter with some of my fellow news media nerds (and I mean “nerds” in the most endearing of terms). This time it was me, @thefuturewasnow @kategadiner @ourmaninchicago @marcusist and @whet having a chat about what constitutes journalism. Is a blogger a journalist? Is there such a thing as a blog journalist? Is blogging simply a medium or something more?
It all started with this typically opinionated remark from yours truly.
In our brief exchanges, I can’t really say we came to any sort of consensus. It made me wonder though: what IS the “official” definition of journalism and does it still fit in today’s rapidly changing media landscape?
Merriam-Webster defines it thusly:
1 a: the collection and editing of news for presentation through the media b: the public press c: an academic study concerned with the collection and editing of news or the management of a news medium2 a: writing designed for publication in a newspaper or magazine b: writing characterized by a direct presentation of facts or description of events without an attempt at interpretation c: writing designed to appeal to current popular taste or public interest
The first part seems fairly unassailable, but the second is where it gets potentially complicated.
These days, when the public seems to have a voracious appetite for more and more slanted reporting, might there not be a discrepancy between recording only the facts and writing to appeal to current popular taste? And if so, is real journalism in danger of being subsumed by the shrill punditocracy that seems to dominate both airwaves and interwebs? Indeed, the only remaining pillar of objectivity seems to be print newspapers which are widely reported to be in dire straits.
And now it’s time for an unpleasant reality check. Taking all this into account, are media figures, including journalists, simply giving the people what they want?