It seems like we’re always needing to label things in journalism, most specifically the work people are doing.
I’ve used this space to complain about the term “hyperlocal journalism” because it’s something journalists like me have been doing long before the recent explosion of local news sites. It’s local news; it’s community news. It’s existed for a long time.
But it seems like we need to have these labels on journalism. If it’s not “hyperlocal journalism,” it’s “citizen journalism” or it’s “blogger.” The latter was a topic of debate on Thursday, including in a Lost Remote post and two articles picked up by Romenesko.
But where does any of the debate about these labels and over who is producing journalism or in what format get us? It just makes us run in circles debating and debating about minutia and taking us away from focusing on how to improve journalism. Wouldn’t it be better to focus on the journalism and how to move it forward?
What’s funny about some of these debates and use of labels is people don’t even use them right sometimes. I once was called a citizen journalist on a blog, which made me laugh since I have two degrees in journalism. Isn’t the definition of a citizen journalist is they are untrained in journalism? If people can’t even use the terms right, they should be ditched.
In 2007 I attended the Society of Professional Journalists conference in Washington and sat in on a panel with at least one senator (my mind is failing me who it was). At that time, a federal shield law was before Congress for debate, and the discussion at the panel shifted to who is a journalist. Should someone who is covered by the shield law have some sort of credential. Someone made the point of focusing on the act of journalism rather than who is producing it.
We live in an unusual age for journalism. The printing press is available to everyone, and there are plenty of formats in which news can be published. That doesn’t make it less worthy if it’s done by someone running a blog or someone who doesn’t have two journalism degrees. All these labels do is create a hierarchy of journalists, and that’s not fair to people who are out there doing good work. We shouldn’t look down on quality work because it’s published on a blog or completed by someone who has never taken a reporting class.
Perhaps if we got rid of the labels, we can have a discussion on the fundamentals of journalism and how to make it better for an ever-changing world.