You don’t have to work at a news organization with a fancy news van to be a journalist.
A journalist is one who writes about current topics, local or national, and can be a blogger, a CNN reporter, or just a citizen writing down government proceedings. The caveat, however, is that a journalist adheres to the ethics and principles of the field of “journalism,” which include objectivity, limiting bias, investigating current events, and avoiding public relations and advertisements.
Looking at the etymology of the word journalism, it comes from French and Latin roots for “a day, daily.” In medieval times journal meant the “book of church services” by way of referring to the daily accounts churches posted, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary.
By the eighteenth century, journal became known as a daily publication as the rise of newspapers spread.
Today, we have a handy thing called the “Internet,” which is basically this thing that allows anyone anywhere to find information on anything. Pretty cool, huh?
The Internet has allowed information to become diffused to the people. As a result, thousands of bloggers can livetweet, say, a Microsoft video game conference they are streaming online in real time with the exact same facts as a New York Times technology reporter who is present at the event. (There are differences, of course. First, the New York Times reporter is most likely being paid more. Second, the New York Times reporter is expected to be wearing pants at the event.)
Few media experts would disagree that journalism has changed, and must continue to adapt, in the 21st century.
While many of the bloggers updating their Twitter feeds about the new Xbox One are just casual fans or tech guys admiring its cool specs, many are trained “journalists” without being attached to a traditional news organization. They are journalists as long as they are practicing the journalism principles and are avoiding “Microsoft is the best” public relations.
Admittedly, it would help their case if they wrote a more in-depth analysis of the Microsoft conference later in the day to publish on their blog. However, in 21st century journalism livetweeing a story is just as much a news report as a Civil War-era telegraph account of the battle of Gettysberg or a Gulf War reporter giving an update for the evening news.
Many, but certainly not most or all, of traditional journalists do not think blogger Jane Doe, representing JaneDoe.com, is a true “journalist.” But as long as Jane has a proper “journalism” training (which would include taking communications courses and knowing how to write and report), she is a journalist.
I must admit I am writing this to, in part, validate my own reporting since I am currently not employed at a traditional news organization. But I have a strong journalism educational background and have an understanding of the history of the mass media. I can write just as well as any John Doe Los Angeles Times reporter. Well, I do not have John’s sources and do not know the politicians and businessmen on his beat, so I cannot write an article as well-reported as him. But, say if I happen to be at a place where a news event happens, I can take out my phone and camera and have something rivaling the local newspaper.
A journalist is just a guy or girl who wants to write a story about something they see or hear about. Really, we’re just a curious person who can sift through information to compile what we see as the most accurate account of what is going on.
Article and photos by Tim Worden.