I’ve spent the last couple of weeks working on a paper that asked if there should be regulations or laws to distinguish between what professional journalists and ordinary citizens can write. And that led me down all sorts of paths, thinking about issues of blogging, journalism, and the media’s general place in society.
I’m not going to bore you with all of the arguments and conclusions from my paper or with my thoughts on the state of modern-day information sharing. Instead, I’ll just give a little bit of insight into the topic for those who want to know some of the things I think about when I’m doing academic snobbery stuff.
If you really want to hear my views, we can discuss them over a pint of ale – your treat, of course, because I’m a starving student.
So, here goes!
Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or maybe if you’re living in America) you’ve probably heard about the Leveson Inquiry here in the UK. The inquiry was prompted by the phone-hacking scandal by the News of the World and will have (already has had?) a drastic impact on the future of news reporting throughout the UK – and maybe even a knock-on effect for other nations around the globe.
As a blogger who is also a trained communications professional with experience as a freelance journalist, I find the question of “who is and isn’t a journalist” pretty interesting. I mean, am I a journalist? Or am a just a blogger who once was a journalist? What about other bloggers? Are they journalists? Can they be? Should they be?
Right now, debates are happening around the world – and around the World Wide Web – about the differences between bloggers and journalists, and whether or not someone would need special training and a license to be a journalist. There are further debates around the idea of creating regulations or laws distinguishing between what journalists and ordinary citizens can write (i.e.: bloggers, users of social networking sites, those commenting on blogs and news sites).
I’m sure it seems like a bit of a boring topic to some people, but any regulations or laws that are created around these issues can be far-reaching. They can change the way news and information is presented to you, but they can also change how you can share information. And each time we make a law that restricts an ordinary citizen’s ability to receive or share information, we move further away from the ideals of a free press – and free speech.
But, back to me. Am I a journalist? No, not really. Even if I end up doing more freelance writing for news outlets, I don’t know that I’d feel like a journalist. But I like to think that I hold myself to the ideals of journalistic ethics. And I like to think that my readers find me to be trustworthy. Of course, that’s easy to do when I just write silly rubbish about my own life – my integrity and trustworthiness might be questioned if I attempted to become an investigative blogger.
Me? I’m just a writer. Not a famous one, and probably not a very good one, but a writer nonetheless. (OK, I’m a blogger, too, but first-and-foremost, a writer.)