In “Journalism in the age of blogging,” Alan Knight mentioned few reasons that lead to undermining the public trust toward the journalism and these could lead to gave the legitimacy and credibility to the new forms of journalism.
As Alan Knight, mentions: “The Internet allows anyone to become not only a media critic but also a reporter and a producer.” (“WHO IS A JOURNALIST?” 2008, 117)
The technological advancement in recent years is one major player in the resurfacing the question of who is a journalist.
The invention of the internet and World Wide Web and also an exponential growth of infrastructures for digital communications was the first wave. The second wave was reducing cost, complexity, and limitations of publishing texts and images. The invention of CMSs and blogs created a new world of opportunities for people who thought have something to say but never has a chance to say it out loud.
The next wave came in 2007 by introducing smartphones, cloud storage and cloud computing, apps (Friedman 2016) and in another word, a user-friendly toolbox that everyone could use it to produce, edit and publish various kind of contents, anytime, anywhere and without any limitations. Of course, these new tools were terrific and empowering tools for journalists to do a better job but also enable everyone to produce journalistic look like content. The professional journalism organisation in competition with this new world realised that they had to step forward into this new digital world. As a result, now, (professional, mainstream or traditional) journalists, are publishing their contents in the same shape, form, and on the same mediums that every other person has access.
The similarity between the medium and apparatus of publishing among professional journalists and non-professional journalists content creators blurred the line between journalists and non-journalists in the eye of audiences. (These non-journalists could include: citizen journalists, bloggers, activists, PR, advertisement campaigns, political personals, celebrities and even news organisations who knowingly publish fake news to disrupt the political and social dialogue in favour of their agendas.)
On the other hand, the growth of technology also changes some of the traditional role and behaviour of journalists. For example, right now the meaning of eye-witnessing and presence at the scene of events doesn’t have the same importance that it had. Modern technology could help journalists to witness event first handed without being there and this change of being heavier also help to make audiences confuse.
All of these can have participated to dissolve the line between Journalism and ‘Pseudo Journalism.’ By Pseudo Journalism, I mean the activities and products which have the similarity to the works of the professional journalist but don’t follow the journalistic value, methodology. Or at least there is a consensus among established journalists that those activities do not represent the work of Journalists.
I think it is crucial not for journalists and the future of journalism but also for the sake of the public and audiences that we could establish some measures to help us make distinctions between journalism and pseudo-journalism.
Some argue that maybe the right way to make such a distinction is that the journalists are going to established a professional structure like lawyers and teachers, etc. As Alex Gerlis points out: “Why should lawyers, doctors, teachers and a whole raft of other professionals have to meet certain professional criteria, including continues professional development, but journalists are somehow exempt from this?” (“WHO IS A JOURNALIST?” 2008, 127).
Maybe this idea is not the best one. Most of the best and essential stories in journalism are those that make many people in the power or particular positions uncomfortable. Maybe establishing a structure that could determine who is a journalist and who is not open the Pandora box of lobbies and corruption and a new form of the power play to stop some journalists to pursue their reporting.
Also, I think the focus and put all the blame on the digital world, and new technologies are not fair. There is no doubt that not only journalism but all aspects of our lives changed based on new technologies and especially digital technology but I think we should separate the practice of journalism and the platforms that the results will publish.
I think maybe the central question of this debate is not the primary question. I believe A journalist is a person who practices the journalism. No matter the size of the organisation or mediums that she is using or the technology of data gathering and so on. The central question I think should be what journalism is in the 21st century?
If we can find at least some measures of defining the journalism, then we could have an idea about who is a journalist and who is not. Based on this point of view maybe we will find out some large and old and established organisation with millions of audiences are not practising journalism, and someone with a cell phone and just a few audiences are practising the best possible journalism.
I don’t have the answer for this question but I think maybe trying to determine noises from the signal in this new age of information could help us to reach to some basic agreement of what is journalism and what separates it from all kind of ‘pseudo-journalism.’
Friedman, Thomas L. 2016. Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations. First. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
“WHO IS A JOURNALIST?” 2008. Journalism Studies 9 (1):117–31.https://doi.org/10.1080/14616700701768204.