Who is a journalist and what is journalism?

Jeff Jarvis asks: Who is a journalist? For that matter, what is journalism? Those questions underpinned not only [Yochai] Benkler’s testimony [in the defense of Bradley Manning], but also the debate buzzing around the head of the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald, as some colleagues in the field have amazingly questioned his role (his permission), and thus whether he should be arrested for aiding and abetting a criminal suspect.

They do that because Greenwald is an advocate and a journalist; while journalists – in the US, at least – have long believed that one must be a journalist or an advocate. Benkler told the court that one can be both. I argue that all journalism is advocacy even if it is simply advocating for openness and transparency, or standing up for the downtrodden, or believing that the public must be better informed.

New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan tried recently (and for what must be the millionth time) to define a journalist. Senator Dick Durbin has proposed that the government should define who is a journalist.

But that would be tantamount to licensing the journalist. That is a permission government should not grant, for that gives government the power to rescind it.

Here’s the problem – the problem Benkler presents in his testimony: in a network, anyone can perform an act of journalism. Thus, I argue, there are no journalists. There is only the service of journalism. [Continue reading…]

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One thought on “Who is a journalist and what is journalism?

  1. eugene

    Forty five yrs ago, I shifted from the government is good, neighbors are good and we are the righteous people. In a short period of time, I learned never, for any reason, trust the government or anyone connected with the government. Essentially, government people have the mentality commonly attributed to criminals. Behind that car salesmen smile is a personal agenda that will use, abuse and discard you like a cheap suit. I learned that the bedrock of righteousness is evil. And neighbors, be very, very careful. Paranoid they say but a psychologist told me “in a healthy way”.

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