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Monday, April 04, 2005

Professional Journalists vs Amateur Bloggers

Battles and backbiting between bloggers and the mainstream media have increasingly become commonplace, with the most prominent being the collision between conservative bloggers and Dan Rather, that ended with Dan giving up the anchor chair - the Jewish Week's attack on bloggers is only the latest skirmish in a campaign by a threatened mainstream media which in this case takes place in the localized niche of the Jewish media world.

And while this shot across the bow may have taken place in the Jewish world but the angle of attack is essentially the same as Jewish Week editor Gary Rosenblatt attacks bloggers for a lack of professionalism. And the same argument is made by him as has been made by all the countless reporters out there; "I wouldn't seek legal or medical advice from an amateur attorney or physician who insisted on remaining nameless," Gary argues.

But what is the difference between a professional journalist and an amateur blogger? Yes there's the office and the fat UJA funds derived salary and getting invited to dinners in your own honor. Doctors and lawyers are trained and taught in order to pick up the knowledge, skill and technique to know the means and procedures of operating in a complex world. Theirs is a hard science and their service is to their clients.

No such standards are truly relevant or meaningfull to journalists and journalism is not remotely like either medicine or law. There is first of all no client for journalism. Reporters don't work for the public, they work to provide content for media outlets, making them no different than any writer. The basic skills and techniques of the profession can be known by anyone with a decent college education or even decent high school education. And this is why Gary Rosenblatt's only real point is the namelessness, it is why he must tack on the 'nameless' complaint to his complaint over the amateurishness of bloggers.

Indeed he would not take medical advice from an amateur doctor or legal advice from an amateur lawyer; but when it comes to journalism, the only real difference he can come up with is anonymity. The problem with that though is there are plenty of anonymous figures in the media too. There's a tradition of anonymous collumns. many others go unsigned, do you really know who writes the editorials in your newspaper? But to Rosenblatt this is not considered anonymity precisely because they are known to their colleagues and that is at the heart of the media's worldview.

The media is not accountable to their readers, as blogs are increasingly forcing them to be; like academics they are accountable to their peers. The blogging revolution is forcibly changing that by first bringing in outsiders to engage in the participatory journalism Rosenblatt puts in quotation marks and sneers at. And secondly by making the reader part of the process, the man or woman commenting on your blog quite likely has a blog of their own or will soon or could create one in minutes if they chose to; they do not have to stare up with awe at the olympian peaks of journalism as mainstream media would look.

Gary Rosenblatt does not make this argument though, instead he claims he's standing up for the little guy being victimized and smeared by the powerfull anonymous bloggers with no recourse. One wonders how much recourse anyone the Jewish Week has smeared has? What is their recourse exactly? A letter to the editor buried on page 57 and followed by a rebuttal from the paper twice its lenght? Lawsuits, slander and libel lawsuits have little chance of being won and even less chance of being awarded damages. ABC news and the rest of the media went into hysterical fits when Food Lion supermarkets were awarded damages for blatantly illegal actions by ABC reporters. The New York Times regularly slanders and smears Israel with no recourse. The Jewish Week has one standard for reporting on abuse case in the Orthodox community and another in the backyard of his more liberal publishers.

Truly media hypocrisy is a thoroughly nauseating spectacle and the sight of Gary Rosenblatt fighting blogger abuse on behalf of the public is laughable. He claims that bloggers are not accountable for their abuses because they are anonymous, how accountable are the 'named' figures of the mainstream media? When Dan Rather and 60 Minutes used obviously forged documents to smear the President of the United States, it took 11 days for them to admit error and Dan Rather still has a job at 60 Minutes and none of the people in charge have been fired. This is the accountability that the most powerfull man in the world can get from the media, what hope is there for anyone else.

Let us speak the truth; neither the media nor bloggers are accountable and anyone who writes must be judged by their reputation and track record; not whether their name is Jewish Whistleblower or Gary Rosenblatt. The ethical and journalistic standards of the media are worthless, only personal character counts. Let the people judge.

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