By paulgillin | August 22, 2007 - 5:08 am - Posted in blogging, Journalism, NewMedia

Jay Rosen at PressThink has amassed an interesting list of triumphs of citizen journalism that he plans to post in response to Michael Skube’s rather self-righteous essay on the difference between bloggers and journalists.

The debate over whether bloggers are journalists strikes me as pointless because it’s so subjective. Wikipedia defines “journalist” as “a person who practices journalism, the gathering and dissemination of information about current events, trends, issues and people.” But is a person who contributes an essential fact or perspective to a story also practicing a form of journalism? For that matter, isn’t Wikipedia acting in a journalistic capacity with coverage of events like the Crandall Canyon mine disaster?

Earlier this year, CNN and other major news organizations turned to bloggers and camera phone users to help with coverage of the Virginia Tech shootings. Was it wrong to rely on these eyewitnesses because they weren’t professional journalists? Does someone have to carry a press card to contribute meaningful reporting?

This is a debate over terminology that is increasingly meaningless in a new world in which everyone is a publisher. Yes, news organizations will always have a vital role to play in disseminating credible, balanced, well-researched information, but individual citizens and groups of people who choose to act as journalists should also be heard. Ultimately, the checks and balances of a free debate will expose inaccuracy and bias. Shouldn’t the decision about what constitutes “journalism” be left up to the person who consumes the information?

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