In the Philippine context there is a sense of elitism with the word “journalist”. It is also an overused word in the Philippine context. There has also been a snickering between those who call themselves journalists— people who by and large make their bread and cheese in Mainstream media– opposed to the likes of bloggers who make their bread and cheese from the fringes of said media. The former consider the latter the rowdy cousin they would rather not have. Perhaps, it is some unfounded fear of job security disappearing. Perhaps, there is some sense of truth in their disdain. Bloggers after all, are ordinary people who armed with the Internet who suddenly found themselves with voice that once was exclusive to those employed by the newspaper magnates, the television czars, and the radio emperors. It was an exclusive right of one to many communication that has an appeal. The many to many form of the Internet has upended this. With now instead of just one or two or few contenders, the competition is a whole universe.
Without doubt there is a need for journalists, and editors in a world so contemptuous of facts. That is the service of journalism to the world. As a citizen, we are often contemptuous of journalists, and the profession of journalism. It is after all not a vocation, but a business. They need eyeballs to keep doing what they do, just as any profession, and business need. So let us not kid ourselves that sometimes, they have to publish stories for the eyeballs. They have to publish fluff pieces. They have to publish for money. It is a cynical, and pragmatic look.
Let us not even begin to touch the “liberal media”, and the “conservative media” as if such distinction makes all of media worst. Hint: it doesn’t. Not when the obvious distinction is a clear sign of a real democracy.
At the dawn of the 21st century a new breed was born called, “bloggers”. A cousin, aided and abetted by the Internet is a fast-paced and quite often rowdy bunch. Some call them citizen journalist. Perhaps, the term, to distinguish the amateur from the paid professional. The thing is, a professional is someone who gets paid. And for a few of these bloggers they have been paid professionally, to be bloggers— to report on the news and such.
The advertising revenue alone is an example. Bloggers have been paid to publish press releases, stories, reviews and so on. they publish fluff pieces, pr releases and the like as their more well to do cousins. Material that coincidently, also appears on various forms of media. So how then is this different from the business of media?
Just because something is published doesn’t mean one is a journalist, right? How does one earn their journalistic stripes? Is it being thrown in the deep end hunting stories? Is it writing the news? Is entertainment considered news? Does that define what a journalist does? Does a journalist who uses online as a platform to tell stories become not a journalist? Does having a twitter account make you a journalist? Does being able to publish on the Internet make you one?
What about creatures called political bloggers? People who by definition write about politics. People like me are called such creatures. People who write for this blog are called such creatures. Are we then journalists?
We have real live journalists in this blog. People who have spent training and their professional career to tell the news. We do require our writers to follow journalistic rules, you know— to avoid that pesky problem called libel, but does that by extension make this a real media platform? Expertise by association?
Am I a journalist then?
Technically speaking I have been paid to report about stories like recently, the U.S. election— and yes, it was nice for 15 seconds to have my name on a White House press pool badge— I still don’t consider myself as a journalist. Nor do I consider myself a “citizen journalist”. I neither care for the profession of journalism nor aspire and have the patience to participate in it. Though it seems I find myself in situations that sometimes (loosely used) fit the description. Even if I did took on either hat, I would make a terrible excuse for both. Believe me, I’ve met real journalists, and their nose for news, and love for the profession is palpable.
Am I blogger? I’ve used the term loosely just to get people to nod. Just to convey an imagined sense of what I do. I don’t consider myself one. At least, I don’t feel the right to the term. I don’t have a blog of my own anymore. And while I do write on politics, and zeitgeist— the style closest is as a columnist, or opinion writer. Then again, I don’t qualify. That suggests a certain readership and sensibility beyond the few meager bots who listen to me on twitter and the occasional google search. If I wrote an opinion piece and no one read it, does this mean I am an opinion writer? If I published a blog, and no one read it, does that make me a blogger?
I can write. Does that qualify me to be a writer when any monkey with a keyboard can? A lot of journalists can write, and so can bloggers, but are they writers or monkeys with keyboard?
Undersecretary Manolo Quezon was for a time, both journalist and blogger. Maria Ressa and her Rappler team are without doubt journalists who happen to use the same medium and ecosystem that bloggers use. Does it make them bloggers too?
The term blogging connotes a certain negativity— the lack of editorial oversight. The lack of certain standards. One can say the same for some members of the press. After all, how many have published or reported an unconfirmed story just for the sake of being first?
This blog, I kid you not has editors. (Yes, I know 99% of the time it doesn’t appear to be the case). Does this mean we too are real deal media outfit?
People waste so much time with titles and descriptions. Who is a journalist? Who is a citizen journalist? Who is a blogger? No one seems to get that such distinction hardly matters, even if it ever did. It is irrelevant. It is just one media now, and the medium of its delivery doesn’t separate any of them.
Personally, this is the description I would use: “idiot savant”. (I call dibs!) It has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? It has that megalomania know-it-all “feel” so common amongst journalist, commentator, and blogger while perfectly describing my lack of expertise on the things I write about. (And yes, I’m perfectly well aware of the meaning of the word.)
Sadly too, in the course of our daily lives people have come go to think of opinion as news, and news as entertainment so if you really want to know who the real journalists are, ask yourselves this. Who has the passion to tell stories? Who amongst you have the nose for news? They tell the truth as best they can no matter the medium because media is how they give voice to stories. And opinion? That’s what idiot savants are for.