Dammit, I’m A Journalist, Not A Blogger: Time For Online Journalists To Unite?

The public relations war of newspapers against both Google and blogs shows no signs of ebbing. Today, we get a proposal that newspapers deserve special laws to protect them. I’ll come back to that, but I wanted to float the idea that perhaps it’s time for an Associated Blogs to take on the Associated Press.

The newspaper industry is very privileged. They have guaranteed seats provided to them at places like the Oscars, the White House plus the fact that when they call sources out of the blue, they have brand recognition that might get them callbacks out of proportion to their actual circulations. The industry also has plenty of support groups, from specialized organizations like Investigative Reporters & Editors to The Poynter Institute.

Bloggers got bupkes. We have no lobbying group. We have no organization designed to help members learn the intricacies of uncovering government documents. We can’t get government agencies to call us back at all, at times (I know, been there and done that). And we’ve got a newspaper industry increasingly portraying us as part of an evil axis that’s killing them. Blogs steal their attention, and Google steals their visitors.

Or something like that. If you’re new to my blog, the past posts below will go into great detail to dissect some of the charges some newspaper industry representatives have been making:

As you’ll see with the first item, newspapers in Washington State have won a tax break simply for printing on paper. Online journalists get no such reward. Meanwhile, Google might be planning special assistance for the New York Times. Today, lawyers argue that newspapers need protection from search engines (because apparently, they don’t know how to use robots.txt files to block themselves from being spidered).

Hmm. I don’t recall Google calling me in, or TechCrunch, or ReadWriteWeb, or VentureBeat or any number of other online media outlets and asking about our financial health and ways they could help us. I don’t recall any groups proposing special laws to help our financial health. But I do get sick and tired of seeing the journalism we do not getting near enough credit from mainstream media sources that depend on us, plus us being dismissed as mere bloggers.

I’m a journalist, not a blogger. I use a blog platform to publish, but that doesn’t make me a second class citizen in the journalism world.

I want online journalists to get organized. Yes, there’s the Online News Association, but that seems an extension of “traditional” journalists working in mainstream organizations with digital outlets. I think we need an “Online Journalists Association,” or a “United Bloggers” or whatever catchy name you come up with. As for its mission? I’m not certain, but some thoughts:

  • Ensure the news blogs get an equal seat at any table where news and journalism is being discussed
  • Help promote deeper reporting and recognition of work that already happens
  • Perhaps share correspondents and photos

As a student journalist at UC Irvine, each paper in the UC network shared a common “Sacramento Correspondent,” someone we could depend on to provide us with stories or pursue particular angles, if needed. Similarly, I could see news blogs potentially sharing political correspondents, in some way.

Maybe. Then again, as my Time For Google To Fund An Online-Only Version Of The Pulitzers? post explains, news blogs largely haven’t needed a wire service or correspondents because we support each other. We collectively, naturally build out stories whereas the traditional media outlets often take a “we’ll do it ourselves” approach. We don’t need an image wire in some cases, because more and more, so much multimedia content is put into the public domain.

But maybe a shared wire service, shared correspondents might be useful. Certainly having a louder common voice would help. Some in the newspaper industry simply are not going to shut up and continue putting pressure for special breaks. I think any breaks should go to journalists overall, not just to for-profit enterprises that have failed to secure a solid bedrock for journalism despite having plenty of time. It’s like rewarding banks that contributed to the financial collapse.

I love newspapers. I might do a future post to literally illustrate how much joy I get from sitting and flipping through the pages of the Los Angeles Times. In fact, that’s what I was looking forward to doing with my Saturday afternoon before seeing this latest round in newspaper bailout game.

But while I love newspapers, came from them and hope they continue to find a place (more on their future later, short story, expect 4-5 “nationals” to survive), I’m begging them to stop seeing bloggers as enemies. Many bloggers are journalists, part of the news ecosystem, colleagues that are entitled to respect.

At the very least, I’m begging the management of newspapers who view blogs with hostility to get out into your newsrooms and talk with a few of your reporters that interact with bloggers. Many of them know the valueable role we play. You should learn, too.


Comments

  1. says

    Sign me up for any such organization that gets created. Before the Seattle P-I shut down, there was a big dog and pony show in Seattle with newspaper officials, city government officials, and others in power about “how to save newspapers” — and, of course, several of the excellent hyperlocal Seattle bloggers were on hand to give their two cents. They ended up hearing much of the same thing you say above — Seattle city government officials were particularly snobby (and uninformed) about the real journalism that local blogs are doing in their own city.

    I write about this issue on occasion on Hyperlocal Blogger — Local Bloggers are Getting No Respect. So, yeah, sign me up. I’m tired of bloggers being treated as second-class citizens.

  2. says

    What I thought was interesting was that the Washington Post article seemed to be suggesting, if I read it correctly, that newspapers should still be able to benefit from search traffic, but that engines shouldn’t be able to index their content. Errr, which one is it? Do you want traffic from search? Or not? Because it’s not an either or kind of question.

  3. says

    Danny,

    I think you’re dead on accurate in envisioning a “digital journalists” organization being needed. While it’s fortunate for those of us who understand your visionary ways, it’s unfortunate that this means you’re probably one, two or more years ahead of the curve. It will potentially take some seriously egregious act perpetrated by the newspaper industry, driven by the deep pocket corporate news players and backed by the politicians they have in their hop pocket.

    One thing that I have noted for far too long is that most newspapers fill the majority of their pages with wire service articles, either verbatim or barely modified. The entire industry has become lazy with a sense of entitlement. Of course they don’t know how to generate a robots.txt file. Heck, you ever see what happens when you go to http://www.nytimes.com/sitemap.xml ? HA!

    And why should they bother to hire SEO experts for silly tasks like that or to eliminate duplicate content? As long as they have any money left in the bank to pay their lawyers and lobbyists, that’s where they’re going to put their money. Brute force tactics.

    Kind of like when I went into the supermarket not long ago and found that Campbells Soups had crowded out the Healthy Choice soups. Healthy Choice was the pioneer a few years back and Campbells initially ignored them, discounted the threat to their income. Once Healthy Choice grew into a major player on the soup isle, and Campbells saw a significant enough drop in their profits as a result, they just bullied their way back into domination.

    So too it may go with print “journalism”. Unless enough people take heed at your call to action.

  4. says

    You’re never going to get respect for belonging to a group of people who’s first impression is associated with cat narratives and science fiction alternate stories … sorry truth sometimes hurts.

    However what might work is forming a new group with no negative pre-existing stigma. Something like the online publishers alliance or some such. I will firmly admit to being an online publisher I want to distance my self from the blogger moniker as much as possible.

    Trying to prop up bloggers is IMHO like trying to prop up the B list or one of the Baldwin brothers ;-)

  5. says

    @graywolf

    I think the issue is that there’s enough serious journalists who happen to use blogging as a medium, and that newspaper industry elitists currently cast a one-type-fits-all net around anyone who uses blogs as their only or primary method of communication. It is, after all, the professionals online that truly threaten print media’s revenue model.

    So it’s up to the professional segment to gather into a new alliance, and leave the masses of people blogging to continue on with their digital soap-box.

    I think if that would happen, your concern on the pre-existing stigma would be addressed.

  6. says

    Sign me up!

    But, I don’t hold my breath, nor do I care what journalists call me. I blog and report things they refuse to report. I even had a CBS affiliate anchor call me up to get my story, but after telling her who all was involved, she became a coward. She refused to report my story, and then went to work for the defendants in my case.

    I have NO sympathy for reporters. They only report what their lobbyists/advertisers/government puppet masters tell them to report. I don’t consider that being a reporter.

    So what if they get passes? Those passes guarantee them to get a byline on story slanted in the direction of those who granted the passes. Bloggers will not get the passes because we are independent and we’ll tell a different side of the story.

    I tell the side of a story that reporters are afraid of. Why? Because if they told the truth, an Air Force Base might get shut down in the next BRAC round.

    That’s the difference between bloggers and the traditional reporting. We’ll talk about the things the government and advertisers refuse to talk about.

  7. Mickey says

    did you really put yourself in the same category as techcrunch and readwriteweb? you are a talented journalist – they have said they are bloggers and lucky if they are that. please never put yourself in that category.

  8. Look says

    1. Did you go to journalism school?
    2. How did you get you job?
    3. …
    4. ..

    Sorry, you are a Blogger!

  9. says

    1. Yes. Pepperdine University journalism program.
    2. By being a good writer/journalist.

    After college, first job was on the City Desk at the LA Daily News where I had about 5-10 byline articles in the paper before switching over to TV news. Eventually switched to TV sports and then saw the writing on the wall in 1997 and started publishing on the web.

    What were your questions 3 and 4, there? (Oh, nevermind, you didn’t have the courage to leave a real name or email…)

  10. says

    @ Look

    The definition of journalist:

    jour⋅nal⋅ist
    1. a person who practices the occupation or profession of journalism.
    2. a person who keeps a journal, diary, or other record of daily events.

    Who said you have to go to school to be a journalist, or to be in the profession of journalism?

  11. says

    Another problem – any such organization is likely to have a substantial contingent of the destroy-traditional-journalism-replace-it-with-BLOGS!!! crowd, both sincere and insincere, for a lot of not so nice motives. This will interact badly with those who are more moderate, and want to work with the dreaded mainstream media. Note I don’t simply speculate here, it’s already happened.

  12. evilbillcosby says

    you are a blogger, sorry.

    real journalists have real resources and real management.
    the average blogger is just some asshole with a ripped-off contacts list.

  13. says

    @evilbillcosby

    OMG you are so blatantly someone who lives in the 20th century, and either work in that death-spiral print world or have close ties to it. Such a completely myopic comment is pitiful. The newspaper industry is currently fighting in any way it can to remain alive even though it’s now become almost completely irrelevant in today’s society.

    Adapt or die. That’s life in business.

    Unless you’re among the codependent corporate 20th century step children looking for handouts from Uncle Sam.

  14. says

    @Seth Finkelstein,

    Such concerns can easily be addressed through an online journalist’s organization through it’s bylaws, guiding principles and operating tenets. Properly written, they can effortlessly set a framework for the tone of it’s members, since membership would then be a privilege, and not a right.

  15. says

    @Alan Bleiweiss – Please study what happened when the Media Bloggers Association discussed having a code of ethics. One of the big problems with discussions like this is the following sequence:

    A: There should be this wonderful idea of mine [insert proposal here].

    B: We tried your idea already. It didn’t work. Because of [insert reason here].

    A: It should work! If done properly it will work!

    What should B reply? A big problem is that whatever B says, A can respond either with wishful thinking, or telling B that B really didn’t do what A proposed.

  16. says

    @Seth,

    I mis-spoke in implying that what can be easily addressed does not require proper advanced planning. Back in 1997 I was on the board of the Long Island Internet Trade Association, which eventually evolved into ListNet.org, a broader organization.

    The only way to achieve success is that the number of participants at the incubation stage needs to be small enough and of the right mix of industry professionals – people who are respected for their integrity, open-mindedness and dedication. Get that right, and anyone wishing to join would need to first be committed to the already established framework.

    With that groundwork in place, you’d have professionals flooding the membership application process.

    There’s clearly a vacuum here that needs filling. Someone needs to step up to the plate. Personally, I wouldn’t be up to this because I myself am not a journalist. I use my blog as a method to communicate information to my existing and prospective clients. Yet I’ve jumped into the discussion because I understand how vitally important it is, and I’m passionate about helping to see online journalism move forward.

  17. says

    @mickey, I didn’t go to journalism school. Plenty of journalists have not gone to a formal journalism school.

    Which job? I served various internships with newspapers, including the Los Angeles times. I’ve written byline articles for the Los Angeles Times as a staff writer; I was a reporter for the Orange County Register. I’ve been trained in “journalistic” ways.

    So yes, I’m a journalist — if not by my past background, by the fact that I practice journalism for my own publication.

    @evilbillcosby I have an enviable contact list that comes from over 13 years of walking my “beat,” that of search engines, which is one reason why other journalists often speak to me or refer to my writings on the topic I cover, search engines.

    @schnrorrer honestly I did look it up and found bumpkiss as a valid spelling, but I’ll correct!

  18. says

    OH THANK GOD!!!!! SOMEONE ELSE FINALLY SAYING WHAT I’VE BEEN SAYING FOR MONTHS!!!! As in – I’m a journalist, not a “blogger”; “blog” is just a publishing format. (Or “platform” as you put it.) You wouldn’t BELIEVE how lonely it is to go around saying this endlessly. BTW I never went to journalism school either but I worked in old media for 30 years before walking away from a high-paying TV news management job to work full-time for the professional, commercial, online-only neighborhood-news business that my husband and I founded. And we do REAL journalism, ORIGINAL news coverage, 24/7, while our more traditional competitors keep bankers’ hours, among other differences. Yes, we need an association. How can I help?

  19. says

    Well I didn’t go to journalism school either, but I’ve written, edited, subbed, picture edited for many years… and now I blog. Got something on commentisfree today on a not-unrelated topic.

    On the association idea, I don’t think it’s a winner. Dunno about the US, but most bloggers in the UK are gits. We don’t play nicely with others. We have too much personality and not enough to lose to restrict our rage. The mainstream is by its nature conservative and timid. We can’t be fired, so tend not to be that way – but I reckon this will make it difficult to conjure up any kind of collective.

  20. says

    I for one love bloggers. We rely upon them to contribute content to WikiCity.com all the time. Long live the underappreciated blogger!

  21. John Arrowsmith says

    I don’t dispute that there are MANY qualified journalists posting online, but there has to be a method established to distinguish between the professional journalists and the untrained bloggers having electronic “back fence” conversations. You don’t get a White House press pass by simply declaring yourself a journalist. You either have to be associated with a recognized news organization or present your own bona fides which would include past experience and distribution (circulation) numbers for your product.

    A professional association for online journalists appears to me to be the best way to establish standards and practices policies and offer methods to measure readership numbers for members.

    Rather than starting from scratch, you might want to touch base with an existing organization like the RTNDA ( Radio,Television New Directors Association) which is expanding it’s role to cover all electronic/digital news outlets. http://www.rtnda.org

  22. says

    I did go to journalism school and I feel I could report rings around my competition at the “traditional” papers in my area, but so what? They have the fancy laminated press badges and I don’t. They get calls back from the USGS or the National Weather Service, not me. So far it hasn’t hurt me terribly, but I’m super aware of this blogger versus “real” reporter attitude. I’m with Tracy. Let’s get together and create an association. Danny, I live in NB so email me and we can meet sometime to discuss how I can help?

  23. says

    “offer methods to measure readership numbers for members”

    Try Google Analytics, which you can now link to AdPlanner to show off your stats to advertisers too.

  24. says

    John, how you get a White House press pass seems a mystery, actually. The White House site has nothing about it. My assumption is that these are pretty much almost inherited. If a publication was accredited back decades ago, they keep having a seat. They aren’t required to keep proving that they, over other publications, still deserve a seat.

    I gather Huffington Post and Politico both have correspondents now, but I’m not sure the access they have. The White House site itself lists nothing about who is admitted and how to get into the club. The best thing I could find is this list from 2008.

    Many blogs are recognized news outlets. My own publication, Search Engine Land, is recognized by Google, Yahoo and Microsoft. We’ve earned that through our reputation and from covering these companies from when they actually started, and in more depth that many mainstream outlets.

    But at some point, you have to wonder whether places that have traditionally given spots to the mainstream media need to open up the admissions process. If you take my friend Greg Hernandez, who annually covered the Oscars for the Daily News, he was laid off. They’ll pulled their entertainment coverage. Next year, will they automatically get a seat, or will Greg be given that seat for his blog?

  25. says

    Oh, here’s another example I found, where a blogger apparently did gain access to the White House back in 2005. It seems it’s the White House Correspondents Association that decides who gets in. And who do they admit?

    “To qualify for regular membership, an applicant must be employed on the editorial staff of a newspaper, magazine, wire service, radio, TV, cable TV or other broadcast organization or newsgathering organization that regularly reports on the White House. The applicant’s principal journalistic assignments must involve White House coverage.”

    I guess news blogs would fit into “other newsgathering organization,” but it would sure be nice if they were itemized with the other folks. And I suspect in 10-20 years, they will be.

  26. John Arrowsmith says

    If you have a web site or a blog that is focused on politics and has a reporter assigned to cover the administration, I would think you have as much right to a WH press pass as the next journalist. But even when I worked for a network news division in Washington, I didn’t automatically get one. I had to prove that I actually went / or had been assigned to go to the White House routinely and maybe even covered some trips. But the WH press pass is too narrow an issue. Finding a way to make it very clear to the public what is signal and what is noise is the important thing. There are a lot of people on line out there that do not understand the first thing about sourcing or journalistic ethics that actually believe they are journalists. They don’t understand how much money it takes over and above salaries to fund professional journalists just to access their stories and sources . Just trying to compete in anyway with major news organization as a lone online journalist is daunting enough. That’s why I think an association of professional online journalists is a great idea. Tapping the resources of an existing one would save a lot of the start-up time. Membership in a recognized organization like the RTNDA would carry credibilty, whether you got a credential or not. The bottom line is that professional online journalists are legitimate news outlets whether they have a staff of 10, 100 or 1. But somebody has to make it clear to the public which of you can be trusted. A professional association has my vote.

  27. says

    @Jason
    Actually, as Senior SEO and Internet Marketing Consultant at Hey Dude Where’s My Site, I don’t know everything or have all the answers. Fortunately I have people I pay that know more about some subjects than I do , such as how the ability to reference sitemap files within robots.txt files has come along. Thus in this situation, I stand clearly corrected, and educated, and retract my previous erroneous reference.

    And unlike print media annoyances, I choose not to bury my retraction in a tiny box that many people never see.

  28. says

    Yes your right Danny the NUJ took ages and made a big deal about allowing Conrad Quilty-Harper to become a member.

    and the UK press criticizing MPs for being self regulated when of course the press is also self regulated cant see either of those lasting.

  29. Joe Niels says

    One wonders just how long the fourth estate ( a.k.a. Journalism ) will continue outside the realms of the Sun & NOW

  30. says

    Journalists are still journalists in my opinion even if they use blogging as a platform instead of the more traditional forms of publishing. Some people may give them less respect because they might associate respectable journalists who blog with the likes of Perez Hilton which makes no sense since there also many fodder publications like the Inquirer. I prefer reading blogs and getting my news online because it’s instant and fast.