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.