Don’t Save Journalism – Save Honest Communication

(Funny that my last post was on having bloggers block and tonight this is pouring out of me. I guess I needed to clear my throat. I don’t want to be an annoying pontificator. As I said in my last post – I want to be on the front lines of all this. I’m a grunt, at best a squad leader. But to do so – I often need a clear vision of where and why I’m doing Spot.Us. If anything – this is an invocation to myself).

Clay Shirky is a wise sage in this era. If the revolution we are going through is akin to that of Gutenberg’s Clay Shirky is a Martin Luther.

I bring him up because most of what I will write below has been written by him in Twitter form. “The rallying cry isn’t ‘save newspapers’ but ‘save society.'”

Journalism is a loaded term. Defining it at times feels like counting how many angels can stand on the tip of a needle.

Much easier is articulating the goals of journalism. At its best the aim is “to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.” This is one of my favorite quotes on the purpose of journalism. Another is “to speak truth to power.” I’m sure others exist. What’s your favorite?

Journalism as a word is loaded because of the ministry it invokes. The profession that, since Watergate, has laid claim to it. That ministry is now a diaspora. Much like after the Gutenberg revolution the ministry lost its authority in interpreting the bible. Martin Luther showed us how. In reaction many journalists cling even tighter to that word.

But the word needs to be redefined.

I go back to Henry Jenkins who pinpointed why I dislike the term “citizen journalism.”

In some respects I dislike the term “journalism.” (My take on The Rhetoric of Journalism.)

Now before you get your tar and feather – hear me out.

I love the idea of speaking truth to power. I love the idea of afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted. I love the idea of communities informing themselves so they can make better decisions.

Journalism does this – but if we didn’t call it “Journalism” (with a big J) would it make any difference? What is at stake here isn’t an industry. Yes, it’s sad to lose an industry. We lost the button making industry when plastic button making machines were made. That was sad. We lost the horse shoe making industry when cars replaced horses. We have probably lost countless industries due to technical innovations.

But did we lose clothes? Did we lose the freedom to travel? Has our general progress as a world been forward towards more freedom and democracy? What is bad for newspapers might be good for the word (Yes – putting content online for free has caused economic problems for newspapers – but it has made mankind better).

And while we may be losing something in terms of robustness of newspapers we are gaining something new with citizen media (there’s that term again?!?).

People wonder if citizen journalism can replace professionals. That’s the WRONG QUESTION.

The silliness of that question: If Major League Baseball stopped tomorrow would all the little leagues in the country be able to replace it? If industrial sweater factories shut down tomorrow would knitting hobbyists be able to replace them?

Nobody would ever ask these questions because the goal of little leagues and knitting groups isn’t to replace their professional counterparts. Instead, they are to create a sense of community, a positive activity for children. If these non-professional activities disappeared could they be replaced? Could professional baseball play the role of the local little league?

So I ask: If citizen journalism activities were to stop tomorrow could professional journalists replace them?

Do I really dislike the term “journalism” – of course not. But it is so incredibly loaded. In another post we could discuss how it needs a re-branding (which is doubly-ironic, I know). We discuss this craft but readers don’t care what we call it. They care about whether it “speaks truth to power, afflicts the comfortable, informs them, etc” That newspaper circulation has been going down since 1972 (well before the Internet) should say something to us all.

What we need to preserve isn’t newspapers. I’d argue it isn’t even “journalism” as we understand it. What we need to save is something else. Something more fundamental. The ability for communities to be informed with honest information and then to mobilize based on that information.

And that’s all I really have to say about that….

25 Replies to “Don’t Save Journalism – Save Honest Communication”

  1. Well, in my market (Toronto, Canada) if citizen journalism disappeared, you wouldn’t really notice the impact on the accountability function.

    I can’t find anyone doing any basic journalistic work in terms of finding out what’s going on in their community.

    People who want to offer their uninformed opinion to others? Lots of those.

    In terms of more community-type news, I can’t think of one citizen source I turn to first.

    “The ability for communities to be informed with honest information and then to mobilize based on that information.”

    On a day-in, day-out basis, the people providing that honest information are the pro journos.

    Mobilization is a political act, not a journalistic one.

  2. Well, in my market (Toronto, Canada) if citizen journalism disappeared, you wouldn’t really notice the impact on the accountability function.

    That wasn’t the argument. The point is that it isn’t meant to replace that kind of reporting. It’s a straw man to bring that up.

    “I can’t find anyone doing any basic journalistic work in terms of finding out what’s going on in their community.”

    Look harder 😉

    Mobilization is a political act, not a journalistic one.

    True: But good journalism has always played a role in mobilization as well. Don’t confuse reporting the truth with being objective. You can do the first without necc. being the other.

  3. Dave, don’t forget to put quotes around what you’re quoting; otherwise it is confusing…

    re Bill’s
    > “I can’t find anyone doing any basic journalistic work in terms of finding out what’s going on in their community.”

    I’d really like to see a “best of cit. j” compilation, with (largely symbolic) awards to the winners.
    Requirement for consideration: a disclosure statement akin to the (ahem) Dubner oath (which should probably be renamed, given recent damage to the brand)

  4. Well said – or well collected, as this case may be.

    It seems the “content” industries are having a tough time understanding the businesses they’re in. I run in the book world and find a similar issue.

    Audiences/publishers alike have defined certain roles for so long that changing those roles causes itchy skin. With journalism, there’s a huge opportunity (and it’s happening) for people to demand the articles they want to hear. And for writers/seekers of truth to command the content. At the moment, in major newspapers/sources of news the content is still determined through one set of eyes. Which is why blogs/podcasts and the like became so huge. People want to hear from other perspectives and there’s a lot of news the world doesn’t see on a daily basis because we’re not exposed to it — or do not seek it out.

    You’re right, the question of journalism is not what it’s called but who can find the truth well, push that truth to the surface and where that truth will be found.

    In books, the question is not whether books will be created. But how the idea will be conveyed and find it’s audience.

  5. Dave, you asked about replacing citizen reporting, and in t-dot it’s a moot question because there virtually none to speak of.

    Toronto’s population is 2.5 million, with another 2.5 milion surrounding it. T-dot is a Facebook and Twitter hotspot.

    You half-jokingly tell me to look harder for citizen journalism in my community, but my response is this: If I can’t find it, then what good is it to me?

    Not to brag, but I’m a reasonably Google-savvy guy.

    And when you say I made a straw man argument, you might want to revisit your MLB/Little Leagues analogy.

    Right now, the threat is to pro reporting. One organization estimates that 25,000 U.S. news industry jobs have been lost since Sept. 15/08.

    I’m glad you agree hobbyists can’t replace them.

    Journalism can provide the impetus to mobilize by digging up honest information, but for working reporters, their job isn’t to carry the torch at the front of the mob (columnists? That’s different).

    Communities have always had the ability to organize, and many have taken advantage of the opportunity in the free and democratic societies of the U.S. and Canada.

    The relatively new technological tools we have now can expand that ability.

    In terms of objectivity, it’s not a word I use to describe my approach. I hope people will find my stories to be accurate, fair and in context — and find me to be reasonably open to criticism and dialogue.

    But am I telling “the truth?”

    I believe that I am at the time of writing, but history may well prove me wrong — although I hope it will prove me right. In either event, it’s easy to be an imperfect journalist.

    Personally, I think if I went around thinking I know “the truth,” I’d be doing people a disservice.

  6. Bill

    If you can’t find it – you might have blinders on to it. Obviously – I don’t know you, so I wouldn’t judge. But Orato.com for example is based in Toronto. Canada is also home to NowPublic (either Toronto or Vancouver). Point is: Just because you haven’t found it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. I suspect the people who do and do not find these folks are somewhat self-selecting.

    I said your response is a straw man. That might be the wrong way of describing it. But you did it again.

    “Right now the threat is to pro-reporting”

    Yes, I know that.

    My point is: Citizen journalists are not the cause of that threat. They are not the ones on the benches trying to take pro reporters place. It’s a mistake to think they are and a mistake to think they can replace you. But it’s also a mistake to think they want to. What they do is something very different which, in all honesty, you probably can’t do/replace and probably don’t want to do.

    Pro-journalisms worst enemy is trying to find other enemies. Craigslist, Google, Citizen journalists, pick your foe. The real enemy is a lack of relevance to people’s lives – the decline in newspaper circulation started in 1972….. well before the Internet.

  7. I hardly have blinders on, Dave.

    We seem to have different ideas of citizen journalism. I’m talking about people taking it on themselves, either individually or in a group, to *report* upon their community as a non-profit act of citizenship.

    Here’s a tweet I sent to @jimbradysp on Monday: ‘In a way, I wish there were more citizen journos. I wish I could follow a blog/twitter feed from every nabe in my city.’

    There are low-profit websites in Toronto such as Torontoist.com and BlogTO.com that do a good job on feature-y, slice-of-life content, but stay away from the capital-J stuff (at least for the time being). They pay their contributors, but the editors say the work is essentially a labour of love.

    NowPublic is set up as a commercial venture, as is Orato. Neither really matches up with my idealized version of citizen journalism — and neither is as localized as I’d like.

    A new entrant in this market is the Toronto version of Examiner.com, which offers cheap service journalism and links to cheap, wacko content like this (http://bit.ly/2gMs45), which isn’t even about Toronto!

    If I keep harping about the “straw man” of pro reporting, it’s because so many blue-sky theorizers seem to put no value on that prosaic pursuit.

    Don’t believe me? Read Cody Brown’s splashy essay ‘A public can talk to itself. Why the future of news is pretty clear’ – http://bit.ly/2A5nV9

    Here’s a comment I left – http://bit.ly/uZ6TZ.

    “The ability for communities to be informed with honest information” isn’t the exclusive purview of pro journalists. There are smart bloggers in Canada who have done some good work ferreting out interesting angles on national politics. To that, I say great!

    I wish I’d see more of that locally.

    But I have repeatedly made the point that from what I can see, if Canada’s professional reporting corps are decimated, there isn’t a wave of citizen journos that are going to ride to the rescue to replace what they do.

    You acknowledge that, but then go on to say: “They are not the ones on the benches trying to take pro reporters place. It’s a mistake to think they are and a mistake to think they can replace you. But it’s also a mistake to think they want to. What they do is something very different which, in all honesty, you probably can’t do/replace and probably don’t want to do.”

    But you don’t define what that is. Is it talking over real back fences or cyber-ones as part of the process of mobilizing? And based on what ‘honest’ information — the kind they get from political or interest-group advertising or other forms of persuasive communication?

    And if the cit-Js aren’t going to provide the ‘honest information’ that the pros are no longer there to provide, then where will it come from?

    In your ill-defined musings about mobilization, are you talking about some new form of citizen public journalism, the stalled movement from the mid-1990s that attempted to encourage people to act on the news?

    Anyway, on to your last graf: “Pro-journalisms worst enemy is trying to find other enemies. Craigslist, Google, Citizen journalists, pick your foe. The real enemy is a lack of relevance to people’s lives – the decline in newspaper circulation started in 1972….. well before the Internet.”

    The big problem of the moment for newspapers has been revenue collapse, leaving a high cost base (new businesses like the Huffington Post get around that by paying virtually no one) — although many media companies screwed themselves by trying to bulk up through debt-financed acquisitions in the years leading up to the recession. That was a double-whammy.

    But back to revenue. Some of that collapse has been cyclical and tied to the recession. Some of that has been related to structural factors and the rise of new competitors and technologies.

    Frankly, I think newspapers have been asleep at the switch on many fronts. I told one newspaper exec that he had to put some development work into his paper’s online classifieds, and his response was, ‘why?’

    Well, because they’re worse than Craigslist ads, which are *free,* while you charge for yours. You really don’t see where that might eventually lead?

    If the business leaders in news are asleep, you can’t feel too sorry for them. They’re paid handsomely to be awake and react to strategic threats.

    Unfortunately, those bad business decisions have had consequences for journalism. Communities may well pay a price in terms of the contribution that journalism makes in allowing its residents to have an informed, honest conversation — at least until new models emerge.

    Clay Shirky has talked about how things might get worse for accountability journalism before they get better.

    As to relevance to peoples’ lives, that’s a response in itself, although I’m guessing you have a very simplistic view of circulation decline.

    Perhaps you can answer me this: What does it say about a nation when one of the most newsworthy people of recent years has been Paris Hilton?

    Maybe part of the answer is that Barack Obama’s candidacy did seem to re-engage Americans in the political process, at least for a time. We should be thankful for that. An engaged citizenry is crucial to good journalism.

  8. Bill

    There is a lot in your last comment and I can’t give it the time it deserves. Apologies.

    But I will say this: I still think we are looking at two different things.

    “They are not the ones on the benches trying to take pro reporters place. It’s a mistake to think they are and a mistake to think they can replace you. But it’s also a mistake to think they want to. What they do is something very different which, in all honesty, you probably can’t do/replace and probably don’t want to do.”

    But you don’t define what that is. Is it talking over real back fences or cyber-ones as part of the process of mobilizing? And based on what ‘honest’ information — the kind they get from political or interest-group advertising or other forms of persuasive communication?

    As I said: Think of it as the little leagues across the country. If pro-baseball were to collapse tomorrow and the players were to go on strike cause they weren’t getting paid enough could the little leagues around the country get mobilized to replace them? Of course not.

    Would they want to? Every 8-year-old dreams of it – but in a very fanciful way.

    But ask the reverse question: If all little leagues disappeared tomorrow could major league baseball replace them?

    Certainly not.

    For one: There wouldn’t be enough of them.

    More importantly. They wouldn’t be used to doing what little leagues do. They wouldn’t think of trading moms to bring orange slices at the end of games. They wouldn’t think about the local hot dog vendor who also sells stink bombs to the kids who run around laughing. They wouldn’t create a sense of community or engagement. Hell – some of my best friends in life (MY ENTIRE LIFE) formed in those little league years.

    Now it might not be big J JOURNALISM: Which you continue to think is the END ALL BE ALL OF INFORMATION AND EVERYONE SHOULD BOW DOWN AND LOVE. But I trust my best friends. They honest communication between me and them is much more important that the BIG J JOURNALISTS telling me what happened.

    That’s what you are overlooking and missing.

    As I said: Citizen journo’s aren’t going to replace professionals. And the reverse isn’t going to happen either. If I had to choose between the two….. you probably don’t know which I’d pick 😉 But if you are asking me between having something to connect with my life long friends or a piece of paper delivered to my door every day.. sorry, the friends win.

    And that is why I say the biggest mistake newspapers have done is look for enemies. They simply can’t win some of these fights. What is bad for newspapers might actually be good for the world. And revenues, as you point out, are part of it – but those are directly tied to relevance. If newspapers stayed relevance their profits would remain high. But they haven’t stayed relevant – and that is their biggest challenge.

    If newspapers try to pick a fight with the role that local communities are starting to play in the way people are informed – they are in for a real battle. Like I said above: They’ll literally start asking people to trust their Big J Journalism over their neighbors, friends, cousins and brothers. I don’t think people will take kindly to that.

    The better approach is to become part of those communities.

  9. I don’t know where to begin…

    Perhaps it’s appropriate to say Well Done. I received the aforementioned RSS feed on my iPhone and refuse to do my head and fingers in by replying on the device; however, I can’t find the same blog on the PC so I trust the explains the roundabout route for the reply.

    I was actually beginning to despair that I was the only one who thought along these lines. I’ve been running my owen PR company since 1997 and in 2001 downsized and became a one-man band specializing in golf. Recently, revenues have been so shite I have decided to be a salary-earner again and have made 50 job applications in the last fortnight. While I was “away” the bastards changed all the rules and it’s digital media-this, social networking-that, inbound marketing-the other.

    I tried making the point that irrespective of the new Wundermedia platforms, virtually 100% of what’s being peddled is crapola because all the spotty 15 year-olds are too busy trying to send you messages on your microwave oven they’ve forgotten content and decent journalism… Not Pulitzer material necessarily, just decently-written stuff that does what it ought to.

    “Speaking truth to power” is succinct. (I think “…afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted” is a little left-wing-bollocks for my taste but has conviction nonetheless.)

    I dared to hope that it wasn’t just me sounding off like an old fart, and reading your blog has been encouraging in the extreme. And this empowering of the individual is heady stuff too. I was working up to blogging something similar but you have articulated it so well, I might just carry on the thread. In fact I might pick it up and run with it on my Facebook Group Work & Play – Golf in Europe… with your permission, of course.

    I do think the proliferation of new media is an absolute Godsend to decent journalism (small j, I think), because returning to your theme of “Speaking truth to power” still applies; only in this context it’s the power of new media that is the context. It mustn’t become a license for mediocre reporting – or even mediocre PR – and as you say, honest communication must be preserved.

    What do you think?

    Dominic O’Byrne

  10. Dave, I think you’re right. We are looking at two different things. I’m looking at journalism, and you’re not.

    Hate to say it, but once again, I find your writing unclear.

    I also must say I’m most distressed by this confusion of yours about honest communication between friends (and/or community members, I presume) and journalism.

    Honestly sharing information is good, but it has to come from somewhere. What if someone’s friends aren’t learning anything new? What if they never knew anything in the first place?

    Another important question is, why are they your friends? One of my aphorisms is we most like those who are most like ourselves (I don’t see a lot of people in business suits having lunch with goths, as one example). That could put a cap on conversations.

    If your friends hold certain views, chances are you’ll likely hold them too. Chances are, you won’t challenge each other. It’s your sameness that binds you.

    When journalism is done well, it gives people a chance to see what the other side thinks. It broadens perspectives, not contracts and constricts them.

    But if a society is becoming more partisan and fragmented, that makes the journalism less relevant to certain segments if they don’t see the reportage as conforming to their biases.

    During the health care town halls in the U.S. this past summer, the Daily Show pulled a quote of one elderly guy in Arizona who said: “I don’t like the ‘spin’ of the mainstream media. That’s why I watch Fox!”

    As another example, in 2007, when the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its strongest statement yet that human-caused global warming was a real and harmful phenomenon, polling showed the ‘denial’ sentiment amongst Republicans jumping upward.

    So as the scientific evidence for the phenomenon strengthened, the GOPers’ belief in that evidence sagged? Wow. I guess that’s what you’d call your faith-based reasoning. Truthiness is another good word that applies.

    No doubt a large proportion of GOPers convinced each other that the weight of the world’s climate science was a big crock of poo. You might say, ‘but that’s not honest communication.’ Well, welcome to the real world (I asked you about the effect of persuasive communications. You didn’t answer).

    We live in a world of spin. There’s not a lot of honest conversation going on out there — and being part of the tribe means buying into the tribe’s B.S.

    It’s quaint to call for more honest convo, but as when a plaintive Rodney King said, “People … can we just all get along?” during the 1992 Los Angeles riots, it might not have much effect.

    It’s easy to talk to one’s friends, especially if you already agree with them. The difficulty lies in speaking with those you have profound disagreements with, especially if separated by distance, class or other factors.

    Good journalism can help bridge the gap. My naive belief is by exposing people to a multitude of views, community would be strengthened.

    You seem to want to live in a small world where no BIG J JOURNALIST — who, like, researched and thought about an issue and then published something you didn’t like — is going to tell you or your crew what happened or how they should think.

    As you wish. But I’ve found when I’ve talked to voters in doing riding profiles, the ones who seemed most informed (and were the most interesting to talk to) followed the news.

    In terms becoming part of one’s communities, I do live in Toronto. It’s one of the most diverse cities on earth, with people from virtually every nation and faith and hundreds of neighbourhoods. There are some very poor, disenfranchised people and some of the most privileged people in the world — and every socioeconomic slice in between.

    I can’t be a member of all those communities. I can try to be an honest broker between them as I carry out my journalistic work.

  11. Bill

    Again – I wish I had more time to dedicate to just thinking about these things – but I don’t. I run a site that funds reporters to do journalism. It is what you would call “BIG J JOURNALISM.”

    But two of those BIG J JOURNALISTS were high school students. Others are community members going out and reporting – they do not work at “BIG J JOURNALISM newspapers. Sorry if that offends you: “regular people trying to do reporting.”

    You write: “Dave, I think you’re right. We are looking at two different things. I’m looking at journalism, and you’re not.”

    Define journalism…. Because most people define it as something that journalists do – or something that appears in journalism periodicals. If that is your definition – it is circular.

    I define journalism as a series of acts (see the tagline to this blog: “journalism is a process not a product.”

    You write: “Honestly sharing information is good, but it has to come from somewhere. What if someone’s friends aren’t learning anything new? What if they never knew anything in the first place?”

    That is such an old and boring argument. Basically you are saying: There are two types of people in the world “smart journalists who go out and meet different people and everyone else in the world who are idiots and never go outside their backyard.”

    I don’t buy that and I don’t think it’s good for you to shovel it.

    You write: “We live in a world of spin. There’s not a lot of honest conversation going on out there — and being part of the tribe means buying into the tribe’s B.S.”

    Yet your example was using Fox news…… The spin in that case is coming from folks who try to own the Big J journalism label.

    You seem to point out that there is dishonest communication and then think that somehow there is no way for honest communication to happen. That logic doesn’t compute for me. Yes – there is persuasive communication or misinformation. Did I ever say otherwise? No – what I said is that we need to preserve honest communication. The ability for groups of people to come together and, as you point out, get exposed to new ideas. Or – challenge their assumptions. We actually agree there.

    Where we disagree is that somehow there is an ownership over the word journalism. That certain people get to define who is and isn’t a journalist and who is or isn’t doing journalism. Again: Journalism being a process of collecting information, filtering information and distributing information that is honest.

    Defining who is and isn’t doing that is too much power for a government to have and to be frank, it is too much power for you to have. You don’t get to determine who is and isn’t doing honest communication or who is and isn’t going through that process of journalism. Yet with the stroke of your keyboard you’ve determined that my friends are exactly like me – and that we all know the exact same things – and in total that is nothing because we never go outside our backyards. That all we do is spread the same lies to each other.

    You write: “Good journalism can help bridge the gap. My naive belief is by exposing people to a multitude of views, community would be strengthened.”

    Yes….. but you continue to assume that regular folks can’t do this. I’m not sure why.

    “You seem to want to live in a small world where no BIG J JOURNALIST — who, like, researched and thought about an issue and then published something you didn’t like — is going to tell you or your crew what happened or how they should think.”

    You are right: No BIG J Journalist is going to tell me how to think. Should they? Should I just turn on the TV and swallow whatever and have them tell me how to think?

    The argument is circular and can be applied to all kinds of scenarios. Don’t trust everything you hear on TV. Don’t trust everything you read in the paper. Don’t trust everything your friends tell you, etc. That we shouldn’t assume everything is honest communication is a separate point and it applies to wherever it comes from….

    Your reaction to come to the defense of Big J Journalism and accuse regular folk of being useless in reporting is emotional and understandable. In some sense you are almost playing out exactly what I describe in the post above: You feel connected to a ministry of “journalism.” Much like the Catholic Church – that ministry had “the truth.” Then Gutenberg comes around and you end up with somebody named Martin Luther who says that anybody who can read can interpret the bible (the ultimate source of truth) can be part of that church. The exclusivity is gone. Anybody with a blog can report. Yes – it sucked for the Catholic Church – but not for society. And yes – it sucks for the journalism INDUSTRY – but it doesn’t suck for journalism as a process.

    Don’t save the Catholic Church of journalism – save the thing behind it. I think the “bible” of journalism is reporting and truth seeking. But you don’t need somebody to tell you what the truth is. You can decide for yourself.

    You are smart enough (I assume you think you are smart enough). Why isn’t anybody else in the world?

  12. Dave, you started using the phrase “BIG J JOURNALISM,” but you now seem to think it’s one I use (I should have used quotes to help you out; I was making fun of you).

    Did you read this from one of my earlier comments: “Here’s a tweet I sent to @jimbradysp on Monday: ‘In a way, I wish there were more citizen journos. I wish I could follow a blog/twitter feed from every nabe in my city’”?

    Does that sound anti-citizen journalist? I don’t think it does. Your reading and cognitive skills aren’t at the levels they should be.

    By the way, although I’ve worked as a pro journo for more than 20 years, I don’t have a j-degree. But I have taught it a bit and worked with volunteers – enough to know that some instantly have what it takes and that many don’t.

    As to defining journalism, this is a good place to start – http://bit.ly/8fX7Y8

    I don’t care who does it, but I do care about the output: Does it tell me something I didn’t know before? Is that something interesting, important and in the public interest (I think one can sometimes differentiate between news and journalism)? Has its main assertions been cross-checked and verified? Are they accurate? Is it well-written (or otherwise well-told), well-researched and put things in the proper context? Does the output show some evidence of critical thinking? Did it get the names right? On that last one, be advised that Clay Shirky’s surname doesn’t have an ‘e’ in it.

    While it may not fit in with the tenets of your faith, there are a lot of idiots who never leave their back yards. But there are people who are engaged with their wider world in part by following the news about it. Again, I’ve been a journalist for a while and talked – and continue to talk — to a lot of ordinary citizens. There is an empirical basis for my assertion.

    Your statement that I’m saying there’s only smart journos and dumb everyone else is nonsense about me but speaks volumes about you.

    This makes no sense: “Yet your example was using Fox news…… The spin in that case is coming from folks who try to own the Big J journalism label.”

    I wrote this: During the health care town halls in the U.S. this past summer, the Daily Show pulled a quote of one elderly guy in Arizona who said: “I don’t like the ’spin’ of the mainstream media. That’s why I watch Fox!”

    Maybe I’m missing something, but to me, that clearly showed the guy was looking for an outlet that confirmed his biases – a phenomenon that I suspect is quite prevalent these days. Why you used that as a reason to throw another ‘Big J journalism’ in mystifies me.

    I’m glad you agree on the need for exposure to new ideas.

    “Where we disagree is that somehow there is an ownership over the word journalism.”

    Dave, Dave, Dave – Where we disagree is over the act of journalism, although again, your writing tends to be muddled, so it’s frustratingly hard to determine what you mean.

    Mere “honest conversation” amongst friends isn’t journalism. Finding out stuff that matters and then transmitting that information to the wider community to give such conversations a factual basis is the fundamental building block of journalism.

    Did you read this in my Nov. 19 comment: “’The ability for communities to be informed with honest information’ isn’t the exclusive purview of pro journalists. There are smart bloggers in Canada who have done some good work ferreting out interesting angles on national politics. To that, I say great!”

    You couldn’t have, otherwise you wouldn’t have made the foolish statements you do towards the end of your last comment.

    Frankly, I have every right – if not a duty — to speak out about stupid pronouncements on journalism.

    “You are right: No BIG J Journalist is going to tell me how to think. Should they? Should I just turn on the TV and swallow whatever and have them tell me how to think?”

    Another dumb misinterpretation. When did I say you should swallow everything that’s published or broadcast by MSM outlets? I do think it’s goofy when people assert the only credible people are their friends. I also happen to think it’s dangerous if people only ascribe something with the qualities of relevance or credibility if it conforms to their existing biases.

    Please state where I said ordinary people are useless for reporting — and if you can’t find it, please retract.

    Please do some research and find where I’ve ever argued at any time in my life that journalism should be a restricted, credentialed profession. Good luck to you on that one.

    I will state that for higher-end accountability reporting, the pros get the job done. Some citizens can and do contribute, but most don’t have the time, interest or skills to do much more than very basic reportage. But even that would be a contribution to the news ecosystem (again, read the comment I made to Jim Brady that you skipped over. Read the one I left for Cody Brown that you skipped over). But again, Muddle Man, you started out by telling me that cit-Js aren’t out to replace what pros do, but now you say … what, exactly?

    I will also say that there’s a difference in accountability itself. If I get it wrong, I can get reprimanded or lose my livelihood. What are the consequences for someone such as Joe the Plumber getting it wrong?

    By the way, what did you think of his reporting adventures last year? Learn anything?

    You talk about this “ministry” having “the truth.”

    Again, I wrote this earlier: “Personally, I think if I went around thinking I know ‘the truth,’ I’d be doing people a disservice.”

    Evangelists in the Church of Muddled, Ill-Thought-Out Journalistic Populism might be well-advised to adopt the same attitude.

  13. Bill

    If my writings are muddled it is simply because I am not giving this conversation the time you seem to put into it.

    Furthermore – your last comment was rude and unconstructive. Way to be a jerk. I hope you are proud of yourself.

    Goodbye.

  14. Which is to say: I really don’t have time to go back and forth.

    I hope you feel as though you have won something. If we ever meet in person – I guess I owe you a beer.

    That is: If you would ever bother yourself to hang with a low-life like me and if I decide to overlook your obvious ill-intended comments.

    From my point of view: You have an angle towards the entire conversation. It is very different from mine. That is great – I wish you luck in your life. But I do wish you’d get out of mine.

  15. Less of a problem than you might think, Dave.

    Interesting that you cleaned up the spelling on Shirky without noting it was in error in the first place.

    You’re a high-integrity guy. But as you say, journalism is a process.

    But you seem to want to take little potshots at people, and then take the high road when it comes back at you.

    That’s knobbish behaviour. Should our paths cross, we can skip the beer.

    Toodles.

  16. Actually Bill I do have integrity.

    I’m leaving your comments up which note the error.

    I don’t think it requires a need to cross out an extra E in the post above. Mostly for aesthetic purposes. It wasn’t a factual error.

    This is my blog. It is my personal blog. As noted from the beginning this post came out of me rather quickly after having some bloggers block.

    This blog is where I collect my thoughts. Where I wrote about my grandparents death, my friends, my life. This blog is not meant to be journalism. I never sell it as such.

    I think you are looking for a fight. Worse than that – if we ever do meet in person I am serious about the beer. I never assume that I know somebody through an online comment thread. I don’t assume to know that much about you. I’m sure if we met in person we’d have a jolly time. If you assume you know me through this thread – you are being close minded.

    That said – this conversation is done in my mind because it isn’t going anywhere productive.

  17. I think it’s a bit naive to assume that watchdog journalism will survive if you can’t pay the reporters who do it. It takes time, it takes money and it takes administrative support.

    We can’t assume that unpaid amateurs will take up the slack when they are also working at other jobs to pay the bills.

    Sure, there are a lot of hack reporters that have been bolstered along by the inflated profits of publishers. But once those hacks have been fleeced out of the system, you still need to pay a core of professional journos who can spend the time to dig deep.

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