Is the Printed Word Really Journalism?

I may work for the rebel alliance, and Jane may work for the evil empire, but she’s still a really talented journalist, and I’m happy to see that she’s started her own blog. That being said, I’m a little baffled by her first post, in which we get this paragraph:

I’m reluctant to shift into the New Media age. There’s something distinctly less romantic about it. While I have enjoyed and utilized LiveJournal, Facebook, Twitter, and Blogger for years now, I don’t see them as journalism. In the same way that as a seven-year-old, I didn’t like letting my foods touch, I’m averse to the new media world’s hodge podge of media, journalism, and the internet. But, the more I observe myself, I see that I’m already falling victim to the reader habits that I dislike as a journalist. I don’t always read the New York Times, but I almost always read Gawker. Generally, if there’s a bit of news that I need to know about, Gawker writes about it. So, where does journalism end and media begin? Where do we cross the line from media into journalism and vice versa? Is Gawker journalism? No, I still don’t think so. But where do these blogger amoebas fit in?

I kind of figured that now that the Pulitzer board was accepting Internet-only submissions, and the New York Times and Washing Post both host numerous blogs, we were past this whole debate. But I guess not. In fact, while it changes from decade to decade, this seems to be the zombie debate that never dies. So let’s slay this particular incarnation of it right here and right now.

Simple question: Is Blogger/WordPress/Twitter journalism?

Simple answer: No. Obviously not.

And now for the longer explanation.

The literal definition of “New Media” isn’t terribly hard to figure out. “Media” is the plural of “Medium,” as in the medium through which journalists transmit juicy, delectable journalism. The medium itself is a totally neutral thing, and yet for some reason, people always confuse it with the content. A blog is not inherently a journalistic endeavor, but neither is something involving ink on paper. It’s the content that makes something journalism. But for some reason, when a new medium to distribute that content gets introduced, people who like the old distribution method get freaked out and start confusing the two concepts.

This time it’s journalism, but the more egregious offenders tend to be those who take it upon themselves to defend art from the savages. In the mid-twentieth century, it was comics that couldn’t be art, as if written word and images were separately potent mediums for art, but when combined they canceled each other out. Then Will Eisner showed up, followed by guys like Alan Moore and Art Spiegelman, and everyone kind of stopped going on about that. In a couple decades, all of the people kvetching about how video games and other interactive media aren’t art are going to research historical precedence and realize how thoroughly ridiculous they look. We’re not ever going to agree on a comprehensive definition of art, but can we at least get together and agree that specifying what materials can be used to create art is kind of stupid?

Same thing with journalism. Jane asks where to draw the line between media and journalism, but that’s like asking where to draw the line between forming sounds with your mouth and saying hello. They’re not opposing concepts; one, by definition, facilitates the other.


2 Responses

  1. Good post Ned. This is exactly true, and Paul Bradshaw talks about it here:

  2. Indeed. Journalism is journalism whether it’s online, on paper, on the radio, or T.V. (believe it or not).

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