Are bloggers journalists?

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Or, is your blog a newspaper?

As a blogger, I probably have an over-inflated view of my blog, thinking that it’s legitimately on par with the greatest of newspapers. While these assumptions are clearly the result of my ego, we may soon see the courts set a precedent for whether bloggers can be defined as true journalists.

An article posted on Media Decoder, a blog by The New York Times, recounts the recent seizure of the personal property belonging to Jason Chen, a blogger for Gizmodo. If you recall, Gizmodo has been all over the news wires for the past week after purchasing an alleged lost prototype of the next generation iPhone.

These quotes from Media Decoder will likely be referenced in countless news stories in the weeks and months to come as this case goes to court:

“Under both state and federal law, a search warrant may not be validly issued to confiscate the property of a journalist,” she wrote in a letter to San Mateo County, Calif., authorities on Saturday. “Jason is a journalist who works full time for our company,” she continued, adding that he works from home, his “de facto newsroom.”

“It is abundantly clear under the law that a search warrant to remove these items was invalid. The appropriate method of obtaining such materials would be the issuance of a subpoena,” Ms. Darbyshire continued.

Clearly, Chen does not work for a “mainstream” media outlet, but his work is defined by his employer as that of a journalist. In this age of emerging citizen journalism, the question is finally being asked, and soon, we may have have a legal answer.

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Journalism in freefall? Maybe not

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An April 13 article in The Atlantic’s business section online (Do Journalists ‘Grieve’ the Decline of Journalism?) recently put a few things in perspective for me.

Most of us like to talk about things, and the things we talk about are, most likely, considered news by the parties talking about them. For those of us who actually pay attention to nation- and world-wide current events, we like to say we keep up with the news and enjoy staying informed. However, when news is removed from its context, which is what happens when it’s reported (according to Neil Postman), it sometimes takes on new meaning.

Take the decline of journalism for example. Everyone likes to talk about how journalism is beginning to fail, and that technology will eventually render the profession obsolete. People can get/make their own news through Twitter and Facebook, and the need for traditional reporters and news gatherers is no longer a societal priority. The problem with this rumor, however, is that the people perpetuating it aren’t the people who care about journalism in the first place.

For those of us who actually value the kind of news we receive about overseas conflicts, the goings-on in Congress, and the state of our nation’s educational systems, the fate of journalism couldn’t be more clear – it’s not destined for a fatal doom, at least not any time soon. Have a look at this quote from The Atlantic article:

It’s not just the new media gurus who think there is value in simple aggregation, or complex interactive graphs, or blogging public policy twenty times a day (Harold Pollack called the health care reform story “the best-covered news story, ever.”) There are Web sites that exist primarily to chronicle and lead the transformation because they find it interesting and important. Executives at newspaper and magazines companies consistently hail the challenges of new media as unprecedented opportunities to provide richer stories to the widest audience in history (the ones not named Rupert Murdoch, anyway).

It seems strange that we would say new media threaten journalism while aiding the rest of society (which seems to be the popular buzz). But, why can’t new media help journalism? Is there some reason we perpetuate stories because they’re conflict-laden? I venture to believe that the people predicting journalism’s failure don’t  want to live in a world where journalism doesn’t exist.

The point of blog comments

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Even though I began this blog for a class a number of months ago, it’s become creepily obvious to me that my writing is influenced by the little statistics graph produced by WordPress to report the number of views my blog receives. Generally, if I write about something extremely timely, such as my post about the Scientology controversies, and to a lesser extent my original post about the social justice forces that could arise from e-book technology, the blog receives a lot of views. Anything else usually gets a consistently low number of pages views.

The same pattern also follows with respect to blog comments. “Important” blogs receive comments. The trouble is, I think everything I write is important. Additionally, I think my humor is humorous and my prose flows. Unfortunatley, this may not be the case, and I may simply be “inviting you to join me on the bandwagon of my own uncertainty,” as Taylor Mali says it.

Certainly, I can’t have the fame and glory of which I recently lamented in a prior post about the film Julie & Julia. This being true, I believe that what I’m noticing about blog comments is that they’re not celebrations of my social prowess, but rather a forum of sorts for interested parties to debate their views and, in some way, facilitate the great conversation.

Based on some of the comments I’ve read and critiqued here on this blog, the general Internet-commenting public may not possess the most life enriching knowledge. I am therefore forced to believe that (1) if comment sections on blogs and news Web sites are supposed to facilitate conversation, and (2) if those conversing are highly unintelligent, then this blog is running quite smoothly. The comments posted here are intelligent, and I truly enjoy reading them. For those of you who read, thank you. My hope is that the conversations you’re engaged in are the kind well worth your time.

I can’t be a better blogger: How to shout, extort, critique, and rant without being heard

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While on Spring Break in my hometown last week, I accompanied my mom to the video rental store and picked up a copy of Julie and Julia promising I’d take the time to watch it with her. I’d heard mixed reviews until that point and was rather weary of how long I could stand Meryl Streep’s Julia Child voice blubbering through the surround sound speakers.

I enjoyed the movie and consciously informed myself that I needed to become a better blogger – one who is famous, has a multitude of readers, and receives free gifts from fans. Naturally, I’d finally be able to begin (and subsequently complete, pitch, publish, and sell) that book about that thing I really, really want to write about. Yet, since the blog market is overly saturated with cultural-critical posts about the mass media (including just about every news media outlet with a Web site), I fully expect my expectations of myself to remain forever un-actualized.

So, why am I blogging, you might be asking. To answer your question, you one of seven who have read or will read this post, I must first ask you, why are you still reading? The obvious answer is that you are a blogger yourself or have a vested interest in the practice of blogging. Actually, that answer gives this blog too much credit and assumes you found it in a search engine. Based on the WordPress statistics, I know this is not the case. I therefore assume that you are one of my friends, or, even less likely, someone referred here by one of my friends.

This being the case, I ask you, my friends and various third-party acquaintances, to pass this blog along to people you know who blog or have a vested interest in the practice because this post is for them and not you, unless, of course, you are a devoted author of the Web or have a vested interest in those of us who proudly count ourselves among the millions of cyber-warriors complaining about things normal people wouldn’t think to complain about, in which case my readership has reached its peak.

According to a blog about blogging, there are 30, 14, 6, 7, etc., different tips about blogging. You could follow the 12-step plan to become a new you in the cyber-sphere, but I encourage you to aim lower. Do yourself a favor and glance over the top 100 blogs listed on Technorati. Do you feel like you just lined up next to Lance Armstrong at the Tour (I assume since you know me you understand this)? What the blog readers out there expect from blogs on a universal scale is content that will appeal to everyone – notice the number of blogs connected to news Web sites or well-known social critics. These writers are safe, sheltered, and have nothing to lose. In fact, their blogs are an extension of their occupational lives.

However, you, my new cyber-friend/non-Facebook friends, do not blog about work. You blog about play, memories, bacon, and other coffee-shop-inspired observations that inevitably represent a theme you’ve attached yourself to and stand firmly beside in your quest for cyber-fame. This quest, however, will destroy your blog. You will stop reading and writing for pleasure and begin crafting sentences for audiences that shouldn’t even be reading your blog.

The next time you feel that rush of a great idea in need of immediate publishing, remember this: your blog belongs to you. This is your intellectual property, and you can write whatever you want. You don’t need to outdo Anderson Cooper or Michelle Malkin – they’ve outdone themselves. Think about what you write about, which great ideas give you that rush, and why you feel the need to write them.

The write it. It’s worth reading your own blog every so often, and it’s worth it when you’re the one listening to your own voice.

Despite increased use, new media still baffling

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Perhaps I’m a bit late in making my decisions, but I’ve finally picked up a Sherlock Holmes novel after seeing the movie for fear of having missed out on a valuable piece of literature. And while my mind is in the mood for solving mysteries this month, one continues to allude me – why, after Tweeting for two, spending the bulk of my day in the corporate Facebook world, running two blogs, updating LinkedIn, and following an untold number of social media guru blogs (not to mention @DanSchawbel who recently posted, “You have to be as committed to your social media profile as you are to your husband or wife”), do I still find it a struggle to maintain my social self (while also struggling to take CNN’s Rick Sanchez seriously)?

Well, I guess you could call me the present-age do-it-yourself-er. Now I’m not comparing myself to those thousands of families who began new lives farming in America and subsequently paved the way for the American Dream as a do-it-yourself kind of enterprise, but I will say that none of this social media, citizen journalism stuff was ever taught to me. And it probably wasn’t taught to you either unless you received a link via your Twitter account that took you to some Youtube posting where some “guru” explained the world of Facebook.

However, recently I found an article via PoynterOnline explaining how a group in Ohio is funding an academy to train citizen journalists. One portion of the article reads:

Academy leaders “will equip citizens with the tools and training they need to tell their stories through videos, news reports, blogs and visual design projects,” the foundation said in a statement. “Students of all ages will learn to express themselves by producing relevant, local content using such new technologies as mobile media players, digital video cameras and editing software. Students also will learn basic journalism tenets and web-broadcasting skills.”

Oddly enough, this sounds similar to what I might expect university admissions counselors to use as a rough mission statement to attract prospective journalists to their struggling communications programs. On first read I was obviously concerned about the state of academia and the legitimacy of my degree program, but I soon began to realize that no one-time, six-figure donation could ever compete with the well endowed, not to mention accredited, universities.

If nothing else, this first-time shot at a citizen journalist academy could pave the way for an entirely new media literacy movement in our country, and with the increasing frequency with which media are becoming extensions of the human body (McLuhan on “the extension of man“), increased media literacy may not be that bad of a thing. And who knows, it may even be good for the local media outlets who publish citizen journalism.

Live updates from the Haitian front line

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My graduate program director forwarded us the link to a New York Times blog (The Lede), which is posting frequent video, picture, Twitter list, etc. updates about the goings-on in Haiti including a number of sources for individuals to donate to support rescue and medical crews and those who are seeking information about family.

Again, you can click here to go to the site. I assume they’ll continue updating for some time to come.

Why journalism? Independence

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Graduating with a B.A. in religion and journalism, most of my close friends were surprised I chose to enter graduate school rather than seminary.  Of course, a good chunk of my friendships were made in churches where I had some type of leadership role.  Even though many of them still see me having a future in divinity school somewhere, I keep receiving confirmation that I’ve made the right decision.

A recent AAN article reported Lucy Dalglish’s concers over media freedom.  The article said she mainly expressed concern over the financial status of newspapers affecting the openness of information in government court cases.  While the financial decline has no doubt taken jobs from competent reporters and writers, could it also be harming the information we have access too?  Courts and other high-profile institutions don’t regularly let bloggers cover their stories (unless it’s the Navy).

A few weeks ago, I ran into a religion professor I had for my final 4000-level class.  I told him about my plans for graduate school.  Rather than asking why I’d not chosen seminary or some other option, because we all know there’s nothing more secular than journalism (at least that’s what the general feel for me has been around some church crowds), he proceeded to tell me one of his main concerns for the future is the state of the American newspaper.  To him, the newspaper is the last hope for a truly free society.

Now, the term “free society” is thrown around so much I’m not sure I know what it means.  It always seems that we’re free, but only to a point.  We’re open, but only this much.  With the definition still not “set in stone” (or Webster’s), I think we’ve got a good chance of helping mix the mortar.