Ken AshfordRight Wing and Inept MediaLeave a Comment

Real journalists hate bloggers.  From today’s Washington Post:

Citizen journalism is bringing folks, young and old, into the public square, giving voice to those who, in the pre-Internet era, may have felt voiceless.

But some challenge the value of all this citizen involvement. Questions pop up. Is it really "journalism"? Are "they" really "journalists"? What’s the difference between citizen journalists and bloggers who write about politics?

"The term ‘citizen journalist’ has an Orwellian ring to it," says Andrew Keen, author of "The Cult of the Amateur," who’s criticized the Web 2.0-Wikipedia world, where everyone can become their own editors.

"People are becoming Big Brother, either with a camcorder or a keyboard, and following the candidates around. It’s ridiculous. You can’t just be a great journalist, the same way you can’t be a great chef or a great soccer player."

Journalists, he continues, "follow a set of standards, a code of ethics. Objectivity rules. That’s not the case with citizen journalists. Anything goes in that world."

And sometimes the facts go out the window.

Sadly, that criticism of "citizen journalists" would carry much more weight if journalists did their jobs.

Take, for example, Joe Klein, the political columnist of Time magazine.  He writes about the House FISA reform bill and the controversy about what it means, and what it will change.  I won’t get into the nitty-gritty.  My only point is that within Klein’s column, at the end, he writes:

I have neither the time nor legal background to figure out who’s right.

Don’t have the time to provide the facts about what an important bill actually means?

Why, thank you, professional journalism!

And over at "Tapped", the bloggers there note something interesting.  They cited articles in both The New York Times and the Washington Post over a squabbling between Romney and Guiliani over Romney’s crime-fighting record as Governor of Massachusetts.  What’s the one thing that BOTH articles failed to mention?

If I were an editor at one of these fine papers, and my reporters turned in one of these stories, I’d tell them to figure out whether Romney or Giuliani is telling the truth. You won’t find it in either story. So which is it?

My curiosity piqued, I did something crazy: I typed "Massachusetts crime statistics" into Google. And you know what I found? This! A page on the state’s web site with their crime reports!


Was that so hard?

Here’s the thing: Politicians lie. The only thing that will keep them from lying is if they know they’ll pay a price. And the only ones who can make them pay that price are the reporters whose job it is to tell us what’s going on.

So I’ll accept that bloggers (aka citizen journalists) aren’t REAL journalists who don’t perform REAL journalism.  The problem is that — a lot of the time — REAL journalism is nowhere to be found, even among the elite media establishments.

UPDATE:  More on Joe Klein’s recent journalism embarrassments here and here.