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.