Just because it's online, doesn't make it journalism

There’s a lot more going on with Alana Taylor’s post at MediaShift than I have time to get into here, but this post by the PBS ombudsman deals with some of it (even as it utilizes possibly the least essential subheds ever). There’s still a lot of bias against reporting news online in academia, mostly due to ignorance. So I admire Taylor for the futurist that she is.

But in pointing out the speck of wood in NYU’s eye, she fails to notice the plank in her own. In this post, she says: “These days anyone who has access to the internet is, in fact, a journalist because they are inputting information that — for someone, somewhere — is newsworthy.”

What she should have said was this:

“These days anyone who has access to the internet has the potential to be a journalist because they are inputting information that — for someone, somewhere — could be newsworthy, provided it’s reported in a way that has journalistic context.”

Re-reading Taylor’s original post about her class and using Pew Research Center’s guidelines for journalism, it’s pretty clear her post fails on points 3 and 4, even as it succeeds on others.

I’m not one of those people who thinks blogs or online reviews are damaging journalism – the two can co-exist peacefully – but journalism isn’t just publishing information that may be of interest to other people. It’s also about doing right by the subjects of your reportage. Had Taylor published her story on her own blog, she’d have been free to exercise her opinion however she likes. But in the same way that putting on a cape doesn’t make me a superhero, publishing something online (or even on MediaShift) doesn’t make it journalism.

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