UPDATE: I’ve written something more succinct on this here.

I didn’t mean to write anything tonight. I have a cold (AKA Man Flu) and was going to sit watching TV and doing nothing, but I had to get this off my chest.

As a someone who has been professionally blogging for over a year now, I’ve recently been questioning exactly what I am. Am I a blogger? A journalist? A journalist who blogs? A blogger who commits random acts of journalism? It doesn’t really matter, of course but it’s completely natural to question one’s self and this is my personal blog. So, let’s take a look…

As someone who strives to produce as much original, ethical reporting as possible, I’d settled on calling myself a journalist (although i sometimes wonder if that annoys friends who have slogged away on a journalism degree course, something I never did even if my Broadcasting degree covered some of the same ground). However, a post by Mashable writer Jolie O’Dell on her personal blog today got me questioning myself again. In it she discusses why not all news bloggers are journalists. She goes into detail on all the points below, so please do read the original post.

While I agree with most of what she says, I have to take issue with some of it. I’ve noted where that’s so below.

1. A journalist is trained in journalism (whether that’s a formal J-school or via hands-on newsroom experience).

2. A journalist’s work is not overly precious to him

3. A journalist refrains from opinion in news stories.
– I’m not sure about this. I find that, especially in the world of tech news writing, readers often appreciate, and indeed sometimes expect, the personal opinion of the author. While I will always cover news in what I consider to be a professional manner, I find that on a tech blog, a “We think…” paragraph or two often suits the form. As long as it’s flagged as such i see no problem with it whatsoever. Indeed, when I check retweets of my posts, there’s often one or two people who quote the opinion over the actual news. If I’m ever asked to write any news for a ‘traditional’ news outlet I’ll refrain from it, of course, but blog posts often feel ‘wrong’ without it.
4. A journalist attributes quotations and cites sources.
(My response to this part is a rewrite of the original incarnation of this post as I didn’t feel the first version explained the point clearly enough – the thrust is identical, however)

Absolutely. A big-name blogger once told me that tech blogging was “A very specific skillset”. That blogger was right; a good tech blogger can get hold of a big announcement from its original source and in less than ten minutes write an accurate 150 word piece about the who, what, why, where and when of the story. Not every journalist would be asked to do that and I’m sure some in certain fields would balk at the idea, but for us it comes with the territory.

That said, the pressure to be first – felt by all major tech news sites at one time of another, leads to perfectly competent journalists sometimes thinking “I’ll go back and fix that later”. Whenever possible I do, although as a part-timer who has other work commitments it sometimes doesn’t happen. Note, I’m not talking about third party, external citations here; the occasional link back to a previous, relevant post may be missed but I’d never not cite an actual news source. Heck no. 

5. A journalist is obsessed with the Truth.

6. A journalist serves the people.

7. A journalist is a skeptic (and often a critic).

8. A journalist cares about form.

9. A journalist isn’t a spy or a snitch.

10. A journalist is passionate about journalism.
Here’s where Jolie delivers the moneyshot quote of the whole post: “A blogger touting his love for journalism is like a high school choir girl saying she loves opera: She might be sincere, but she’s got a hell of a lot to learn.”

They’re all great points and I wholeheartedly agree with most of them. As someone who did a Broadcasting degree a few years ago and has since stumbled into tech news writing almost by accident, I wouldn’t have called myself a journalist a year ago but I do now, and that’s down to experience, getting my fingers burned a few times and learning from it.

For me, journalism isn’t really about the specifics Jolie goes into; it boils down to this: ethical, original reporting that respects the reader and tells them something new. It’s worth noting as well that many so-called professional journalists have more in common with casual bloggers than anything mentioned above. See here and here for examples.

I’m not sure exactly when a blogger becomes a blogging journalist. The lines are pretty blurry but I’ll continue to call myself, and conduct myself as, a journalist whether other people agree that I am or not.

Right, back to the man flu.  

Image credit: Phil Moore

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