What makes someone a journalist?

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Francis Di Domizio
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What makes someone a journalist?

Postby Francis Di Domizio » Mon Jul 01, 2013 10:33 am

Senator Dick Durbin (as well as other law makers) thinks it should be definded by federal law.

http://www.suntimes.com/news/otherviews/20978789-452/sen-dick-durbin-its-time-to-say-whos-a-real-reporter.html

Creating a national sheild law does seem like a good idea (though currently only Wyoming isn't covered by either common or staturory law), but I wonder exactly how broad a definition congress would give to the concept of a journalist or a news medium. Clearly not every blogger is a journalist, but I think a legitimate arguement could be made that some bloggers should be considered legitimate news sources.

I would think the best definition of journalist would look at the activites used to gather factual information for a news piece and not on the medium the final article is displayed in. Granted this would create issues where the protected status might apply to some articles and not others by the same writer, but that seems like a more resonable definition then saying everyone who writes stories for a newspaper is a journalist. It also would be more flexible as our means of spreading information continues to evolve.

The other half of the question is of course, should journalists have special protections. Since for the most part the question is moot outside of Wyoming, I don't know how relevant it is. Personally I'm not a huge fan of the concept that some private citizens should have special first amendment rights compared to others. I think if the definition of journalist is broad enough to include anyone who gathers factual information with the intention of informing the broader public in an ubiased manner then it would eliminate this complaint (at least for me).

Granted in most of the recent cases of leaks to journalists, a shield law (if it existed) would probably be overridden anyway due to national security issues.

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Re: What makes someone a journalist?

Postby DCB » Mon Jul 01, 2013 12:03 pm

Francis Di Domizio wrote:The other half of the question is of course, should journalists have special protections. Since for the most part the question is moot outside of Wyoming, I don't know how relevant it is. Personally I'm not a huge fan of the concept that some private citizens should have special first amendment rights compared to others.


Freedom of the press is spelled out in Amendment Numero Uno (I'm using the post-Amnesty edition of el Constituiono), so we're kind of stuck with it.

Durbin can be a jerk sometimes. The whole point of a free press is to hold the government accountable. Having Congress choosing who gets to review their work kind of defeats the purpose. Its bad enough our media is dominated by inside-the-beltway Villagers who pander to the same politicians they socialize with.

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Re: What makes someone a journalist?

Postby snoqueen » Mon Jul 01, 2013 12:21 pm

From the link in OP:

A journalist gathers information for a media outlet that disseminates the information through a broadly defined “medium” — including newspaper, nonfiction book, wire service, magazine, news website, television, radio or motion picture — for public use. This broad definition covers every form of legitimate journalism.


I don't know why this is problematic. You have to broadcast (that is, disseminate) what you gather, but that's so easy as to be nearly unavoidable. In today's media world the main distinction is not between objective reporting and whatever is the opposite, but instead between reporting and opinion.

Nearly every major news organization maintains that separation to some extent.

From FDD:
...if the definition of journalist is broad enough to include anyone who gathers factual information with the intention of informing the broader public in an unbiased manner then it would eliminate this complaint


The sticking point here is "unbiased."

Either no one is unbiased, or we all are. The day when we believed any news source published unbiased information is long gone. You can get in a long philosophical discussion about whether there exists anything objective, but it's beside the point.

I think the distinction between actual reporting and bs is one of quality, not some status attained by the reporter. As readers get smarter about news, we learn to read with an eye toward its provenance, to compare several sources to see if they're just copying one another, and to consider our impressions of the source's record for accuracy. The burden falls, more and more, on the reader or viewer. Whoever is the journalist is only part of what we weigh in our judgment of legitimacy.

Where does this put journalists' legal protections?

I think if we acknowledge all our communications are subject to monitoring and nothing much in the communications world is private any more, it falls on the journalist to create sufficiently secure connections that sources are difficult to trace (when that is the intent). Why should anybody be compelled by the government to reveal their sources when the government is well able to dig around and find out just about everything a person has been doing?

Let the government uncover the sources for themselves, if they want to know. If we all can be journalists, then we all need to come up with satisfactory security on our own.

Third corner of the triangle: As a source, if you tell or give someone information and you don't want it broadcast or published, it's up to you and the journalist to encode it or conceal it to your mutual satisfaction.

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Re: What makes someone a journalist?

Postby Ned Flanders » Mon Jul 01, 2013 12:57 pm

There's no journalism certificate. The more the merrier.

Francis Di Domizio
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Re: What makes someone a journalist?

Postby Francis Di Domizio » Mon Jul 01, 2013 1:49 pm

Snoqueen wrote:From FDD:

...if the definition of journalist is broad enough to include anyone who gathers factual information with the intention of informing the broader public in an unbiased manner then it would eliminate this complaint

The sticking point here is "unbiased."

Either no one is unbiased, or we all are. The day when we believed any news source published unbiased information is long gone. You can get in a long philosophical discussion about whether there exists anything objective, but it's beside the point.


Hence my inclusion of the word intent. I agree we all have some bias, and it would be foolish to think that didn't play some part in the creation of a news story (or in the recieving of it). On the other hand there is a big difference between some bias coming through in the tone and languafe used versus intentionally framing the information to drive your viewpoint.

DCB wrote:The whole point of a free press is to hold the government accountable. Having Congress choosing who gets to review their work kind of defeats the purpose. Its bad enough our media is dominated by inside-the-beltway Villagers who pander to the same politicians they socialize with.


This is pretty much the point I was trying to get to, though I may have clouded it up with the journalistic rights discussion.

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Re: What makes someone a journalist?

Postby minicat » Mon Jul 01, 2013 1:52 pm

Ned Flanders wrote:There's no journalism certificate. The more the merrier.


There's no politician certificate, either.

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Re: What makes someone a journalist?

Postby Ned Flanders » Mon Jul 01, 2013 1:54 pm

minicat wrote:
Ned Flanders wrote:There's no journalism certificate. The more the merrier.


There's no politician certificate, either.


Exactly. They belong together.


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