I'd Like to Have an Argument: Bloggers are Journalists

Aug 282009
 

images-1Recently I wrote a post about handling freebies that got a ton of attention, thanks to people who re-Twittered (re-Tweeted?) it.  Some bloggers commented that they are not journalists, and therefore rules about handling freebies, reviews, and promotions do not apply.

I wasn’t so sure, and thought I’d do some research. Let’s look at three definitions of a journalist:

According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary,  a journalist is

  • a writer or editor for a news medium, or
  • a writer who aims at a mass audience.

According to Dictionary.com, a journalist has several meanings:

  • the occupation of reporting, writing, editing, photographing, or broadcasting news or of conducting any news organization as a business.
  • the “press”
  • a course of study preparing students for careers in reporting, writing, and editing for newspapers and magazines
  • writing that reflects superficial thought and research, a popular slant, and hurried composition, conceived of as exemplifying topical newspaper or popular magazine writing as distinguished from scholarly writing.

And according to Scott Rosenberg, author of Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It’s Becoming, and Why it Matters, “blogging could be journalism any time the person writing a blog chose to act like a journalist — recording and reacting to the events of the day, asking questions and seeking answers, checking facts and fixing errors.”

So according to each definition, food bloggers are journalists. You aim at a mass audience (your blog is public), you write in a popular, non-scholarly way, and you record and react to the events of the day (even if they occur in your kitchen), asking questions and seeking answers.

Semantics aside, most of what food bloggers write is the same format as published content. Publications have columnists who write humorous first-person essays or opinions about current events.  They have cookbook reviews, recipes and product reviews. Sure, your posts contain links, the content is usually shorter, and photography makes step-by-step recipe writing  clearer and visually appealing. But basically, it’s the same thing.

The bottom line is that you are not reinventing the wheel. You are producing recognizable, familiar material in a different medium. Therefore, rules of ethical behavior apply.

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  7 Responses to “I'd Like to Have an Argument: Bloggers are Journalists”

  1. Some bloggers are as good as journalists. Some “journalists” are as bad as bloggers. Don’t get intimidated by the word “journalist.” And don’t think they know more than you do as a blogger, they don’t.

  2. Most bloggers are columnists but are not journalists. Ninety-five percent of bloggers write to express their opinions about something, not to report factual news or write feature stories. The majority of blog sites merely comment on factual news that was reported elsewhere — typically by mainstream media.

    There is nothing wrong with any of this, and certainly there are plenty of bloggers who DO write the same type of thing you’d read in newspapers, magazines or elsewhere. But I think a small percentage of them can truly be called “journalists.”

  3. I believe a lot has to do with intent, perception and audience.
    If your intent is to be treated as a journalist, if it is all possible for your writings, postings, etc. to be viewed as some form of journalism or if for your intent is to be perceived as journalism, news reporting, information sharing, etc. and you are writing for an audience other than your mom and sister you are probably a defacto journalist and the public will expect you to behave as one.

    If you label your blog as fiction, limit viewers to your cat sitter and/or make no intent to create opinion, inform or share info I guess you are off the hook. I’m getting carried away with myself of course, there will always been room for the personal blog and similar.

    I’ve always been uneasy with “advertorial” in a magazine and newspapers and hope food blogging doesn’t end up being seen like that which could happen with corporate blogs, blog posts for hire, etc.

  4. Even though Webster has a common denominator definition, both use different skills and similar skills. Different processes and similar processes. But both operate under different boundaries. That’s the main separation.

    I’ve been in both roles. I believe if a post is written like a news article, there would be less subscribers. And if a newspaper article was written conversationally like a post, it would never make it past the editor. And too many of them, s/he will kick your assets to the curb.

    Different strokes for each. Both require different expertises (that is if you want someone to read it). lol

  5. Unless your blog post requires three sources, has a copy editor going over it and making some really annoying changes, and an editor telling you that you need to rework the first graph and that your kicker sucks, it isn’t journalism. An opinion column? Sure. But not journalism in the sense of what most people think of the word today.
    Before anyone gets their panties in a bunch, I was/am a journalist and also am a blogger. I worked for some respectable publications and still freelance on occasion. My first blog was a mom review/contest blog. I accept freebies (just like news publications do for the majority of review copy) and I never accept payment for said reviews (gotta stay away from conflict of interest!), but I never considered that blog to be journalism. It was just something fun to do in my spare time.
    I have to agree with the comments already posted. While some exceptions can be made for true journalism content on blogs, the majority of us are just bloggers. (And yep, I said “us.” That means me, too.)

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