David Kaspar skewers Der Spiegel in his posting about their recent article comparing bloggers to real journalists. I wouldn’t claim that bloggers are generally writing in the public interest, but it’s clear that neither are all the people claiming the label “journalist.” Getting paid by a big corporation to grovel to politicians and churn out superficial, thinly researched sensationalism is not necessarily in the public interest.
Many bloggers simply parrot political propaganda or just want to write profanity in public, like graffiti artists. However, there is really no excuse for the de facto classification of blogging as inferior to traditional journalism. Traditional journalism started out, some 300-400 years ago, much like bloggers have today: It was a mix of polemics, observations, gossip, advertising, personal experiences, and fiction.
Somehow, once it reached the 20th century, did journalism magically transform into a “profession” requiring 4-6 years of college in order to promote “the public agenda” in perfectly objective, scientific descriptions of unquestionable accuracy and precision? I don’t think so.
Modern journalists have become arrogant and myopic about their craft. They believe there is something inherently virtuous about what they do because someone pays them to do it. They believe that their words are categorically fair and objective because they quote “both” sides of an argument. They believe they are performing a public service, like a fourth arm of government, when they publish “leaks” and quote “anonymous sources,” even if those leaks directly benefit government agencies. They believe they are “informing the public” by quoting a politician or spokesman as the sole source for a story. They believe they are supporting the local economy by doing “news” stories promoting wonderful new business developments and acquisitions.
If journalists really wanted to be accountable, they could be; but they like being free of moral constraints, so they pay for it by appearing to be mercenary. This is at the heart of the blogger/journalist debate: The web-enabled public doesn’t see any real difference in objectivity between them, and they enjoy reading bloggers’ unvarnished opinions over journalists’ whitewashed pretense (Matt 23:27-28).