One Step Forward And Fifty Steps Back For Bloggers (And Society)

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What year is this?

Instead of treating Bloggers as if they’re not capable of reporting the news or having journalistic integrity, why not just elevate the journalists that we deem as "worthy" to a more professional status? This way, we can both control the media and – at the same time – let organizations decide who they should give more media access to based on an ID card. Does it sound ridiculous? Does it sound like the year 2000 all over again? Guess again. In the National Post article, Quebec seeks special status for select journalists, published today, it reads: "Quebec’s Culture Minister, Christine St-Pierre, announced this week that she is pushing forward with a plan to create ‘a new model of regulation of Quebec media.’… Key to the plan would be legislation establishing the ‘status of professional journalist’ in order to distinguish those committed to ‘serving the public interest’ from ‘amateur bloggers.’ It is proposed that state-recognized professional journalists would enjoy unspecified ‘advantages or privileges’ not available to the great unwashed… The government says it does not want to prevent anyone from practicing journalism. But it would create a separate class of journalists, who in exchange for their new privileges would have to respect certain criteria, yet to be defined. The new status would not be awarded directly by the state but by organizations representing journalists."

Well, isn’t that special?

Do you like the way that journalists "serve the public interest"… and then there are "amateur Bloggers" (who don’t)? Bloggers and journalists no longer have a symbiotic relationship. Even those days are over. Blogging is journalism and journalism includes Blogging. Pushing this further: journalists simply can’t do their jobs without Bloggers anymore. Don’t believe me? Look at both the sources used and where the news is initially culled from as proof. News breaks on Twitter in real-time (newsflash: Twitter is a micro-blogging platform) and Bloggers are often cited in both breaking news stories, digging deeper to find a truth and quoted as subject matter experts. Taking that even further, how often does the mainstream media simply report on a news item created by Bloggers? The answer: all of the time (from a plane crashing in the Hudson River to the Arab Spring to TMZ). I mean, what is Blogging anyways? It used to be an online journal that was powered by RSS, but the concept has evolved. Blogging is the ability to publish anything in text, images, audio and video instantly online to the world. Is The Huffington Post not considered to be a credible news outlet (their traffic trumps that of The New York Times and Wall Street Journal)?

What about the discourse?

Sometimes the news isn’t fit to print. Here’s the dirty little secret of the traditional publishing world: the pages of content are limited by how many pages of advertising are sold. The amount of content is not predicated on what’s happened in the news or how much news was created. The news that’s fit to print is predicated on advertising. Let’s also not forget about the value that Blogging platforms provide in terms of the discourse in the comments (and while many complain of the quality of the comments, it’s still a forum for discourse that does push a story further). Journalists and others often use the Blogging platforms to tell more stories or to expand on a story that was edited for size. It’s not uncommon for traditional media outlets to publish the audio and/or video interviews that were used to create the news pieces. Those extras are frequently published on a Blog or Podcast platform.

Who am I?

Based on the description above, I’m an amateur Blogger and would not qualify for a status of professional journalist… or would I? I have a bi-weekly column in both the Montreal Gazette and Vancouver Sun that frequently gets picked up by other newspaper outlets across North America and I have a regular column, Media Hacker, in The Huffington Post. So, I guess I might qualify… then again, all of my columns and traditional media contributions came because of my Blog, so I might not.

See what I’m saying here?

Instead of putting an effort on who is and who isn’t a journalist, why not focus on where the audience is, how diverse the perspectives are and how to get the information more effectively disseminated to everyone? Especially when it sounds like taxpayers are footing the bill for this type of legislation (hard to believe, isn’t it?). If we want to get really raw here…

Why don’t we let the public decide what is credible media instead of letting those who are trying to control the message or those who are trying to hold on to their legacy instead of evolving?


  1. I literally was talking back to my computer screen when I read the first paragraph.
    “Are you kidding?” And then I read the line “Well, isn’t that special?” and I laughed out loud.
    I can’t believe that this is happening, or perhaps I can. Seth’s blogt “When Ideas Become Powerful” said “Why are we surprised that governments and organizations are lining up to control ideas and the way they spread.”
    I guess we are seeing the line-up starting – at least in Quebec.

  2. It’s almost a joke what they are proposing. Three thoughts on the matter:
    1. Money (read Advertising revenue) comes first,
    2. Audience should matter, but never as much as #1,
    3. Use journalistic integrity as a pretext to implement change (shift power back towards traditional media).

  3. Really great post – well articulated and great arguments (facts). Very interesting, frustrating, but unfortunately not entirely surprising.
    Looking a little deeper I see fear of exactly what you stated: loosing their legacy and most importantly, loosing control of the messages – which they have, haven’t they!
    Even if this new “status” is awarded, it won’t change the truth of the world or the way people view, choose to get or experience their content.
    Although frustrating, nothing to worry about… and you have to laugh don’t you? At their fear and tiny efforts?!

  4. funny I was just quoting Robin Williams in a Positive twist: “and the french have their bomb too, it only destroys restaurants under 4 stars.”

  5. There is no doubt that blogs / social media / “citizen journalism” are a very positive moves forward in the distribution of news and opinion. I can’t imagine our world without it.
    However, starting a blog does not require any training, can be 100% anonymous and there is no real world consequences for inaccurate or misleading posts.
    I know words like regulation would screw the whole spirit of social media so I’m not suggesting that but let’s face it there have to be some standards for someone to be considered a journalist… Give the people who went to J-school some respect.

  6. Testing. Testing. Is there a parallel here? Let some organization decide who are professional gun owners and who are amateur? Different “guidelines” for each?
    Canada seemed to have gotten the easy mortgage thing correct. They opted out.
    Maybe they should opt out of this one too. Again we are witnessing the fact, worldwide, “officials” just don’t get all this stuff on the Internet. Social Media?
    Consider USA’S EEOC. Read their rules vs. what is actually going on in the working world. Thou shalt not discriminate when hiring for all the following reasons……therefore thou shalt not display a picture of the applicant on the Web. My point, finally, is to worry not. How does a government prevent Middle East Spring? Curbing non-approved “journalists” is not an assignment I would accept for all the money (oops gold) on the planet. You too?
    PS – I don’t expect as a J school grad to be given respect. I expect to earn respect one reader at a time until I expire. sQs Delray Beach FL

  7. St-Pierre has remained silent on whether command of the French language ( as Payette suggested) should be a prerequisite for inclusion into the elite group. There can be little doubt how she feels (zero tolerence for bill 101 infractions) Are English bloggers a disproportionate part of the scene in Quebec? Is this her real target? The vast majority of old school journalists like St-Pierre don’t get the new net-based medium, and likely never will.

  8. I have to admit I’m a little torn here. I’m a journalist and the journalist in me wants to scream profane language at you for seemingly belittling my education and training. However, I’m young and fully immersed in the blogger/social media life. I work for B Culture Media, which is a company that makes its living through blogs, Facebook and Twitter, so how can I discredit the bloggers of the world by saying they don’t know what they’re talking about?
    I remember in my news reporting 101 class discussing whether bloggers are journalists. My opinion at the time was “hell no!” (and I admittedly still have a tiny piece of my soul that will forever believe that) but for the most part my opinion has changed drastically. Bloggers write about topics they do insane amounts of research on, topics they spend every day of their life absorbing and living. Bloggers are the experts journalists interview. Sure, the content on blogs is heavily opinionated and lack some of the qualities “true” journalism pieces contain, but overall blogs should not be discredited as reliable sources and should most certainly not be regulated.

  9. Wow – this is truly scary. I think Quebecers are capable of sourcing and filtering our own news. Is Quebec society really this backwards? When do we start censoring the Internet?

  10. We do not need old hat authority deeming who has integrity, and or who has the public interests at heart, nor do I think any new type of labeling will be effective.
    Integrity in a msg an be verified by verifying sources, opinions can be legitimized by proof of concept. Journalists are not policy makers, they are not technologists, they are not scientists. They do not know more about any given subject than anyone else, except journalism. I would take Mitch’s opinion on digital marketing over Loyd Roberts’ any day.
    In other words there are far more accurate ways of determining the journalistic integrity of an individual than the opinion of an elected official.

  11. Great post Mitch. The real question is, what makes a journalist a journalist?
    I would argue practicing journalistic ethical standards in your reportage is what makes one a journalist or not. Getting paid or doing it for free is the definition of a professional. Those are two separate things. There are plenty of examples of professional journalists not living up to their own professional standards.
    But what makes a media company professional, and what makes a blogger an amateur. What makes a traditional newspaper credible, and the blogger suspect? How do bloggers achieve that respected, professional, credible, profitable status?
    The answer is simple. By acting professionally. The public will vote with their ears, eyes and dollars on who is credible and who is not, who is professional and who is not, who is valuable and who is worthless regardless of how the government, or association protecting the jobs of “professional journalistsâ€, or the traditional media, or any other self interested gatekeeper tries to define the rules to their own benefit.

  12. The motives behind this bill remind me of my first trip to Paris, where for a few extra francs one could sit in the premier étage on the Metro (subway). Freed from the great unwashed masses one could sit amongst the Bourgeoisie and breathe in a higher quality tobacco smoke. This is about the separation from one class to another because those classes have been blurred by means that “they” can not understand. Create a set of rules to do something which they can not do themselves, pure and simple.
    Some of the finest writers of the last century, Norman Mailer or Hunter S Thompson were journalists because there was no other outlet, if the current digital world had been in place I suspect neither of them would have seen the inside of a news room.

  13. I agree with your opinion, but, then again, I follow bloggers who have integrity. They often have a higher standard of ethics than some journalists.

  14. I think both journalists and bloggers can serve public interest. But as someone who is a professional journalist (comm school, magazine internships, journalism jobs), I can tell you that one thing that often differentiates journalists and bloggers is that many bloggers don’t use sources. Unless you’re writing an op-ed, journalism relies on attributing sources, whether it’s quotes or research. It seems that most bloggers don’t feel they have the obligation to back up claims with sources. Sourcing gives so much more credibility and objectivity. I think that’s a big thing that can set the two apart. That’s not to say that not all bloggers don’t use sources–many do. But most don’t.

  15. I actually think bloggers have been just as if not more open than journalists. Not all journalists operate under the principle of full disclosure and now days the lines are so blurry as to what that actually is. Thanks for sharing.

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