I am writing my first paper for my summer class, Introduction to Mass Communication. I am required to read and evaluate two separate sources which present opposing points of view on the topic of the future of journalism. Of course, the argument is whether the old-school journalistic model is dead, and can it be replaced by the newfangled, sparkly, flashy, dynamic media model which focuses on the local reader: consumer-driven and consumer-centric.
I am reading David Simon’s 2009 testimony before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet during a hearing on the future of journalism for the third time (reading his testimony for the third time). His words are compelling, and have inspired me to share a little bit about my own role in this new media model of journalism.
I am a blogger, and have been for years. My first blog was started with the goal of sharing what it is like for someone from Texas and Florida to live in the foreign land of New England. I wrote about what I saw, and what I felt about what I saw. See all of those “I’s” in the previous sentence? Very important to this discussion.
This past semester, I joined my college newspaper (as much as anyone can join at my school — it is not student-run). I attended the class which provided the newspaper experience, was assigned several articles, and began the work of research and interviews.
I had to ask a lot of questions. A LOT! I hadn’t been involved in a newspaper since high school, and that was in 1976-1977.
I purchased the Associated Press Manual, began reading like a fiend, and tried to learn as much about journalism as I could in a few weeks while at the same time working on my first articles.
I dove in, asking for interviews from many people including professors who run departments, deans, and counselors. I interviewed fellow students, officers in student clubs, and made phone calls to local businesses. I transcribed interviews (boy did I make a lot of mistakes in my interviews), made notes from research, and started writing my articles and an op-ed. It was utterly exhausting and some of the hardest work I have done since starting college.
Here is what I discovered: I am NOT a journalist.
That designation belongs to those who have gone to college, earned a degree in journalism or other relevant discipline–or its equivalent in experience–and learned firsthand in a news environment how to report the news. Journalists are professional news reporters. A professional is someone who gets paid to do his or her job.
There are such things as ethics, the law, how to handle sources, leaving personal biases at the door, integrity, honesty, and truth in reporting.
When I clicked “create a new blog,” I was not automatically endowed with the journalistic characteristics above.
I have done a lot of reading, and I spent a good portion of each class that I attended picking the brains of the adjunct professor who really IS a journalist. I felt kind of bad being so vocal in that class, but I can only hope that my questions, and the instructor’s answers, were somehow helpful to the other student-reporters.
Those few months participating in my college newspaper were wonderful, and I plan to be involved during 2014-2015 year as well. But I am NOT a journalist. I have not earned that title, that designation, that credential.
I am an amateur. I am a blogger who is interested in journalism. I am a college student, and a second year student at that.
I really do care, and I am curious and write occasionally about what I see in my community (though I have avoided any direct references to where I live because of privacy issues — I have kids), but I am NOT a journalist.
I am a blogger.
There is no way, ever in a thousand years, that I can take the place of a trained, educated, and experienced journalist unless I major in journalism (or gain the equivalent in experience), work in a reputable news organization, and get paid for doing so.
Volunteers who love to see their names in print, bloggers who do not have professional editors and peers to evaluate and review their work, and free-lance writers who have not been employed at some point in the news industry are NOT journalists.
I am a blogger and a student hoping to learn more about journalism. That is all I am.
I am NOT a journalist.
For more information on this issue:
Real Clear Politics: David Simon’s 2009 testimony on the future of journalism
Center for Journalism Ethics: Digital Media Ethics – growing pains of digital media and journalistic integrity and ethics
New York Magazine: The Birth of the ‘New Journalism’: An eyewitness report by Tom Wolfe
Nieman Reports: The Tasks in Creating a New Journalism by Michael X. Delli Carpini
M/C Journal: Select Issues with New Media Theories of Citizen Journalism by Alex Burns