In our world of global communication, bloggers have become go-to resources on a wide variety of topics. People rely upon the information shared by bloggers for both personal and professional growth, but the question remains whether or not these bloggers have earned their place in the esteemed industry of journalism.
Are bloggers journalists? No. Bloggers are not considered journalists because they imbue their articles with opinion whereas journalists report provable facts.
Despite this specific difference between bloggers and journalists, the debate about what truly separates one from the other continues to spark controversy and conversation.
The Legal Divide
Credibility is key when you are researching who to trust for information, regardless of the topic. Journalists are credible because they publicly represent established media outlets. They are protected by the proverbial any friend of yours is a friend of mine mentality. They are also protected by something called a shield law.
“Shield law, in the United States, is any law that protects journalists against the compelled disclosure of confidential information, including the identities of their sources, or the forced surrender of unpublished written material collected during news gathering, such as notes.” (Source)
Under these laws, journalists are afforded all legal protections under the First Amendment of the Constitution. This is because a journalist is so-called based upon their ability to meet seven, court defined qualifications.
Qualifications of a Journalist
- Bachelor’s degree in journalism or a similar major.
- Press pass assigned by a recognized news entity
- Pristine adherence to journalistic standards (fact-checking, disclosures of conflicts of interest, etc.)
- Meticulous note taking of conversations and interviews conducted
- Maintains confidentiality of sources at all times
- Writing must be original
- Commitment to reporting from all related perspectives
Fact or Fiction
While any blogger may meet several or even all of these judicially approved qualifications, they receive no legal love due to the assumed inherent bias in the information they publish.
Bloggers write about personal subjects like parenting, shopping, overcoming traumas…you name it. Whatever they write about, they are under no requirement to prove that anything they publish is actually true. Even business bloggers are under no obligation to support their statements. Granted, they should. But they don’t have to. And because they don’t have to they are not legally responsible for whatever you do with the information they provide.
There is a dark side to this freedom, however. The majority of blog entries are anecdotal and often rooted in opinion. Once an opinion is made public, it can be deemed spurious, or simply put, fake. Anyone can call blog content into question and such a situation can quickly escalate into a legal matter if someone feels harmed enough by what is stated to sue for defamation.
The internet didn’t just create a whole new world, it launched a world-sized marketplace. Brand influencers are no longer Mad Men lurking in dark bars and conference rooms. They are everyone and they are everywhere. Bloggers who can cultivate a large enough and loyal enough following can leverage that fanbase into book deals, brand endorsements, live tours, TV appearances, and more.
Rags to riches in infinitum.
Journalists, too, have the ability to achieve great acclaim, but in no way near as lucratively as bloggers. And that’s what makes working with bloggers extra appealing.
What’s In A Name
According to Jay Baer, award-winning Internet pioneer with 26 years of experience to work helping the world’s most iconic brands improve their digital marketing and customer experience, there are four main differences between journalists and reporters:
- Bloggers are self-made
- Bloggers are time-starved
- Bloggers need traffic and influence
- Bloggers want to co-create content with you
Conversely, this would mean that:
- Journalists take guided steps to earn their merit (see above qualifications)
- Journalists have to be extremely strategic with their time management
- Journalists have a ready-made and captive audience
- Journalists may not play well with others.
Which stairway to success is superior boils down to personal preference.
First Come, First Served
Journalists and bloggers travel different paths through their careers yet their timelines are intertwined. It’s an interestingly codependent relationship, actually.
Journalists have access to news and events way before the general public and this public includes bloggers. Without this content, bloggers would hard-pressed to keep coming up with original content to discuss. When the media cup runneth over, however, bloggers have time on their side.
The Press is an industry that is run like a well-oiled machine. The writing can be formulaic and the schedules unforgiving. Disappointingly, noone yells “stop the presses” half as much as all the 1980’s movies had us believing. On the flip side, bloggers need wait for no green-visored curmudgeon with a secret soft side to get their copy in the hands of the public.
“Media is all about getting news out to the public FAST. This is an advantage that bloggers have over journalists. With traditional news media, they have to wait for the next paper to be printed or the next television or radio show to occur. Bloggers can put out new information within seconds at any time they want.” (Source)
Breaking news is available at the ding of a push notification and if you’re not first, you’re last.
Straight to the Source
Bloggers and journalists alike aren’t even sure on which side of the job pool they stand, nor which side they prefer. Is one considered better than the other? More respectable?
Skills that Pay the Bills
Full-time blogger Ethical Unicorn wrote, “I often feel like there’s an invisible negative connotation around saying you’re a blogger, like your work is less valid. I often find myself saying things like ‘I’m a blogger, but I don’t write about vapid things!’, and then immediately feeling absolutely awful.” She continues, “But I guess it’s this image of the democratic nature of the internet that can make bloggers seem less legitimate. If there’s no barrier to entry, no cultural gatekeeper that needs to let us pass, then how can people trust that we’re actually worthy of being taken seriously? Or that our writing is any good?”
This brings us right back to those pesky qualifications we discussed earlier. Does it really come down to journalists are journalists because they simply paid their dues? Carolyn Cohn, Chief Editor of CompuKol Communications LLC, a communications consulting firm, thinks so.
She states that “if someone has never written before and he or she gets started by writing blogs, the skills that are needed to be a professional journalist can be acquired that way. However, blog writing and journalistic writing are definitely not one and the same. Being a journalist and the approach to writing at times requires a very different skill set.”
Agreeing with Cohn is journalism expert, Tony Rogers. “Many reporters, especially those at the largest news organizations, have followed their beats for years. So whether it’s a Washington bureau chief writing about White House politics or a longtime sports columnist covering the latest draft picks, chances are they can write with authority because they know the subject.” (Source)
If You Blog It, They Will Come (to your website)
Blogging serves more purposes that reporting or commenting on past, present, and future events. Blogs may not necessarily bring in the bucks, but they do now play an integral role in the direction those bucks could be headed.
Transactional relationships bloom more often in cyberspace now than they do on the showroom floor. Whereas a giant, inflatable dog toy waving at you from in front of a car dealership window may have attracted your eye back in the day, businesses are now trying to convince you to shop on their website and blogging is one of the ways they get you through the proverbial door.
The Final Word
Bloggers may not yet hold the privilege and esteem of the journalists who have paved their way, but they aren’t very far behind. Pre-internet strictures are crumbling as the lines between the two become more blurred. Time will tell us who will ultimately have the final say on the matter. We’ll just have to click to find out.