Are Bloggers Journalists?

We are all publishers now, but are bloggers journalists? Frankly, I don’t think so, and I don’t pretend to be a journalist (even though I have been writing a weekly newspaper column for several years) – although the issue has been subject to some debate.

Wikipedia defines a journalist as: “a person who practises journalism, the gathering and dissemination of information about current events, trends, issues and people.” – although it defines journalism as “the profession of writing or communicating, formally employed by publications and broadcasters, for the benefit of a particular community of people.”

Bloggers are often treated as journalists though. For example, we often receive emails from vendors of various wares and services hoping that we will write about them.

For example, within the last few days, I received an email about a new website called Litireviews that “collects published independent legal software and technology reviews“. The email asked me to “Please take a minute and check it out. If you think it appropriate, please let the readers of E Legal know about it.”

I also received an email inviting me to join Lawlink, stating “LawLink is the first and largest social network exclusively for attorneys in the United States. On August 7, 2008, LawLink opened its doors to attorneys in Canada. Over 4,000 US attorneys have joined LawLink.”

I joined it, but have yet to do anything with it. Frankly I’m suffering a bit from social network fatigue. There just seems to be too many of them, which collectively take too much time to manage.


  1. Speaking as both a journalist and a blogger, I think the medium matters a lot less than the standards to which you hold yourself and your work. There’s no shortage of reporters and columnists for well-known media outlets whose ability to write, willingness to research, determination to be fair and interest in promoting the truth are embarrassments to the profession. And there are more than a few bloggers whose strengths in some or all of these areas would be a welcome addition to the mainstream press and the readers who depend on it. You can’t judge a writer by her medium.

    The biggest problem I see is that these four elements — writing, research, fairness and truth — aren’t valued nearly as much as they ought to be in either journalism or blogging. The downside of the rise of micro-journalism is the equivalent rise in micro-readership: tiny echo chambers all over the world whose members want to hear only what they already believe. This applies as much to as it does to Fox News, and its effect is to cut off lines of communication and exchange between isolated camps more interested in partisanship than in accuracy.

    Journalism, no matter where or how practised, contains a critical component of civic duty, the betterment of society through the dissemination of truth. We could use a lot more of that from all corners.

  2. I don’t believe that I as a blogger am a journalist, but am confident that some bloggers, without credentials or training, are.

    What Jordan has written above makes a lot of sense. What I would add though, is a firm belief that blogging has the opportunity to hold journalism to a higher standard, and potentially make journalism better.

    Really, what should happen – long term – is that the best bloggers will become journalists. The community aspect of blogging will determine both the marketability of a persons writing, and also their ability to adhere to those standards of quality. If they don’t? their career wasn’t meant to be in the first place.

    To be frank, being a journalist today is a lot tougher than it was 10 years ago. If you don’t do your research or drop a one-sided piece, bloggers are going to light a fire under your feet. That journalist, in turn, will (and should) hear from their Editor.

    And for me, that’s *exactly* how it should be.

    I still trust journalists, but I expect these websites (which can still have relevance once paper dies) to show the highest standards that make me want to keep reading.

  3. Two recent stories got me thinking about this issue.

    One was the story, “OPP officer posed as journalist during 2007 Mohawk protest” (as reported by the CBC), which drew a strong response from journalists.

    The other was the recent case, St. Elizabeth Home Society v. Hamilton (City), 2008 ONCA 182 (CanLII), 89 O.R. (3d) 81, [2008] O.J. No. 983, 2008 CarswellOnt 1381, 291 D.L.R. (4th) 338, 230 C.C.C. (3d) 199, 52 C.P.C. (6th) 48, in which the Ontario Court of Appeal quashed a finding of contempt against a journalist who, after being subpoenaed in a civil case, refused to reveal a source.

    I suppose various employers of journalists issue ID cards. In addition, press cards are available from the Canadian Association of Journalists. Regular membership is $75 per year. Article 7 of the bylaws says:

    Membership shall be extended to any person whose application has been accepted and who has paid the required annual membership fee. … Active members of the Corporation shall be students or working journalists whose salary comes primarily from, or time goes principally into, journalism, including the managers of media enterprises and teachers of journalism, as determined by the Board of Directors of the Corporation.

    A superficial perusal of the bylaws didn’t suggest that there were elaborate procedures for reviewing the credentials of applicants, or for dismissing unqualified members. The reality might be otherwise. Does anyone know?

    For purposes of comparison, I also came upon the site of the UK Press Card Authority, said to be an initiative of the Metropolitan Police, and with support from the British Association of Journalists, the Chartered Institute of Journalists, and others.

  4. Sorry, folks. I messed up the link to those bylaws.

  5. Had to ad the link to this Globe and Mail story from Christine Blatchford:
    I’m not blogging this, mark my words