Monday, July 26, 2010

Journalism vs. Blogging

A lot of bloggers like to think they are journalists just because they blog about things that journalists cover.

Politics is the most common area where this perceived blurring of the lines occurs.

Local bloggers think that because they cover City Hall, and accredited journalists cover City Hall, there is no difference between journalists and bloggers.

To a certain extent, they are right.

You need a license to drive a car. You need a license to practice medicine. You need a license to be a lawyer. You need a license to dispense pharmaceuticals.

You don't need a license to practice journalism. All you need is a media outlet.

In the past, corporations controlled the media outlets. Newspapers, radio, TV. One of these mainstream media outlets needed to agree that you were a "Journalist" and give you access to their news gathering and fact checking resources. You could then report the news you had gathered to your employer's audience.

Not so anymore. These days, any fucktard with an Internet connection and the minimum savvy necessary to create a blog or a twitter account can declare themselves a journalist and start posting shit that can be consumed immediately by the entire planet!

But there is an impenetrable wall that separates bloggers from journalists. The bricks of that wall are facts and the mortar holding the bricks together is fact checking.

Last week we saw a classic example of the difference between blogging and journalism.

Conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart posted a video of Shirley Sherrod (a HUGE PUBLIC TARGET, being Georgia State Director of Rural Development for the United States Department of Agriculture) addressing the NAACP.

The video appeared to show her exhibiting a racist attitude towards a white farmer who came to her seeking help. In a knee-jerk reaction by the racially sensitive Obama Administration, Shirley Sherrod was immediately fired.

But guess what? The 2 minute video had been intentionally and maliciously edited down from a 44 minute video to make it appear that she was saying exactly the opposite of what she was actually saying!

She was actually making the point that she had been able to recognize her prejudice, overcome it, and go on to help the white farmer keep his land. A point backed up by the white farmer in question!

Andrew Brietbart is clearly not a journalist. He is a conservative blogger with an agenda to forward so the actual facts weren't important. All that was important was the firestorm, the press, the knee-jerk political responses and the publicity.

That's fucked up and irresponsible. A real person lost her job because some Internet asshole used selective statements from her to further his own political agenda.

Despite this depressing example of lazy, self-promoting, egotistical, irresponsible idiots corrupting the concept of journalistic integrity, there are still examples to be found of True Journalism.

The Washington Post published Top Secret America, the culmination of an investigative journalism piece by Dana Priest and William Arkin.

"The government has built a national security and intelligence system so big, so complex and so hard to manage, no one really knows if it's fulfilling its most important purpose: keeping its citizens safe."

Trained, accredited, experienced journalists (one of them a Pulitzer Prize winner) spent TWO YEARS developing sources, vetting those sources, finding corroborating sources, checking facts with experts in the field, filtering their data through experienced editors and making GOD DAMNED SURE they had their facts straight before they went to print.

That, my friends, is Journalism.

Cutting and pasting selective content from real journalists, adding snarky comments to boost your hit count or push your agenda is blogging.

Know the difference.


emawkc said...

So... does Dan Rather count as a journalist?

m.v. said...

get it right, she wasn't fired because some asshole posted a video, she was fired because her employer reacted inappropriately without checking facts. I can post crap about you all day long, but if you get fired, your employer will have a huge wrongful termination lawsuit on their hands.and you more or less voted for her employer who specifically promised not to do shit like that; so maybe put a hundred bucks and an apology in an envelope and mail it to her since she was fired because you bought into hope and change bullshit.

Dan said...

Emaw raises a decent point - one of the points of confusion is due to the failure of "journalists" to actually do journalism. Back when the Star had Dan Margolies, he showed me the difference between what a journalist does and what I did as a blogger: The Sherrod affair shows that a lot of journalists are just as sloppy as any blogger.

MV - you don't know much about employment law. Employers can fire you for any reason they like, as long as it's not because of race, gender, age, or some protected reason.

Xavier Onassis said...

emawkc - Dan Rather DID count as a journalist, until he stopped being a journalist.

m.v. - I don't remember Obama "specifically promising" anything about a situation like this. Maybe he did...I just don't remember. But his admin was definitely wrong for asking for her resignation before they knew all the facts.

Dan - Agreed. Too many journalists pander to the lowest common denominator.

m.v. said...

sorry, Dan , must be my years in a union company where you can't get fired.
XO, he promised to be not like Bush, who for example fired some attorneys for political reasons.
I am not the only one seeing it this way:

I Travel for JOOLS said...

Actually, I think XO's story was well written and I agree with most of it. As a conservative, Breitbart embarrassed me, even angered me. He USED Sherrod and as far as I am concerned, he used me and all conservatives. He published the full tape on his website to cover his ass but he led with a chopped version which unfairly depicted her as a racist to further his own "fame". He knew exactly what he was doing.

That said, I don't think even he dreamed that the administration would do what they did. It was straight up incompetence and horrible judgment all in the interest of protecting the image of the Obama administration. I find this even more egregious than what Breitbart did.

Joe said...

Did Breitbart fire Sherrod? Who fired her? Why did whoever fired her fire her?

Did the person or persons who fired her check THEIR facts first, or did he/she/they simply accept that if Breitbart showed the clip it must be so?

Have there ever been any instances when leftist "journalists" showed some clip out of context that resulted in an unfair consequences?

To be clear, I think Breitbart did a dastardly deed, either on purpose or by design...I don't know which, 'cause I can't see his heart.

To be even clearer, I don't think that because one side does such a thing it is OK for the other side to do it, too.

Breitbart qualifies as a journalist to the same degree that Dan Schorr and Dan Rather qualify.

Are YOU a journalist? Why or why not?

Do you check your facts as well or better than Breitbart, Schorr and Rather?

I think there is more here than the simplistic "he's a bum" approach you have taken.

There is plenty of sophomorism eminating from the administration, too.

Nick said...

m.v. -

...he promised to be not like Bush.

What Obama meant was stupid; he promised not to be stupid. Which he has managed, this episode aside, to do quite well.

Joe -

I can see Breitbart's heart. It is cold and shriveled. He meant to mislead. He meant to sow confusion. Frankly, he's a prick.

Oh! the "dastardly" by the way. Now there's a word that just doesn't get used as much as it warrants.

Xavier Onassis said...

Jools - I don't think her firing was a matter of protecting Obama's image. I think it was a knee-jerk reaction to what appeared to be a racist comment from one of his staffers. They fired her to prove that they have zero tolerance for racism from anyone. Trouble is, they were wrong. There was no racism. They didn't take the time to get the facts. That was the wrong part. If there truly had been racism, what they did would have been correct.

Joe - "Why did whoever fired her fire her?" See above.

"Did the person or persons who fired her check THEIR facts first, or did he/she/they simply accept that if Breitbart showed the clip it must be so?" No, they didn't. That was their mistake. Ever since the Swift Boat attaccks against Kerry, the SOP has been to respond to attacks IMMEDIATELY and not give them time to fester and grow putrid. Unfortunately that approach doesn't leave time for fact gathering.

"Have there ever been any instances when leftist "journalists" showed some clip out of context that resulted in an unfair consequences?" Oh, probably. But this isn't about left vs. right. It's about blogging vs. journalism.

"Breitbart qualifies as a journalist to the same degree that Dan Schorr and Dan Rather qualify." Wrong. Completely and totally wrong. The late Daniel Schorr and the disgraced Dan Rather were true, trained, experienced, accredited, award winning journalists respected by their audiences and their peers. Breitbart is just a douchenozzle with an agenda and an internet connection.

"Are YOU a journalist? Why or why not?

Do you check your facts as well or better than Breitbart, Schorr and Rather?"

Oh HELL no. I'm definitely NOT a journalist. But then again, I don't try to pass myself off as one by posting "breaking news".

I am very proud and quite content to be "just a blogger". I'm an unapologetic Liberal and an Atheist. I say whatever the fuck I want and I don't give a rat's ass if anyone reads it or likes it.

Lastly, I did not say "he's a bum" nor was that my main point.

My point was that there is a difference between a blogger who just flings shit to get a reaction and a journalist who takes the time and effort to get the story right.

Radioman KC said...

I can't believe I missed this post for blogging ethics is way high on my list of rants just now. I put you on my websites homepage and saw it just now. Well done. Oh yeah.