You Are All Journalists Now

Thursday, February 16, 2006
A multi-billion dollar business isn't going to go down the tubes quietly. The legacy media will do everything they can to ensure they remain in business. The first line of defence was to ignore the blogs entirely. The second, now being played out, is the plethora of recent stories in the NYT, the WSJ, and elsewhere which cast the Internet itself as a nefarious siren of corruption insinuating itself into our living rooms. It enables child pornography, it allows stalkers to do their stalking, etc., etc.--all the usual boogeymen of the Twenty-First Century. (It aids the terrorists too--they use Google maps--but that's not an Official Boogeyman so it isn't mentioned.)

The Internet-as-demon defence isn't likely to work much better than the blogs-don't-exist approach. The third line of defence will be a legal attack--bloggers will be assailed as "contributors" to political campaigns, and the creeping censorship of our ever more draconian election laws will be used to stifle the new media. You read it here first.

There is hope. The FEC quietly ruled last autumn that bloggers do qualify for the "journalist" exception to the campaign finance laws. "The Commission concludes that the costs Fired Up [a set of blogs] incurs in covering or carrying news stories, commentary, or editorials on its websites are encompassed by the press
exception, and therefore do not constitute 'expenditures' or 'contributions' under the
Act and Commission regulations." Full link.

What, you didn't read the reports of this in the legacy media? All of you who are contributing to this site through posts or comments, go look yourself in the nearest mirror and proudly affirm: "I am a journalist now!". Er, on the other hand, maybe you want to retain your self-esteem. Don't expect the legacy media to take this lying down however. Expect Prominent People in the legacy party to do their utmost to help their allies in the legacy media. Blogs are the true voice of the people, a title the rich and powerful elites of the Northeast have arrogated to themselves for a long time. It will be interesting to see how the forces of blogger-democracy fare when pitted against the forces of old-money old-boy established East-coast Ivy-league power politics. Good luck to us.

10 comments:

Barry Dauphin said...

MHA,

Nice post. It is unfortunate that the laws have been written for protection of people (i.e, journalists) for the sake of freedom of the press as opposed to protecting behaviors (i.e., acts of journalism). That could have avoided the bugaboo. But since the laws are written that way, having bloggers qualify certainly seems the sensible thing. I do hope this can put to bed the bloggers falling into the campaign finance quagmire, but I never underestimate the tenacity and prissiness of "do gooders" such as the campaign finance reform crowd.

terrye said...

A journalist? Hey, don't call me names like that.

I had not heard of this. Just the other day a friend of mine was asking me if the blogs would be exempt, now I can answer him.

vnjagvet said...

Is being a journalist a step down or a step up for an old brokendown lawyer?

No caustic answers please. Be kind.

Seneca the Younger said...

I guess we'll find out if Cheney invites David Gregory to go dove hunting any time soon.

rws said...

I originally left this comment over at Kate's place, but it's appropriate here, I think.

Slowly but surely, the followers of St. Duranty of the Holy Fishwrap are becoming aware of that annoying little dog nipping at their ankles. It will be amusing to watch them attempt to muzzle that dog as it grows ever bigger, and stronger.

Knucklehead said...

vnjagvet,

How much harm does a typical broken down ol' lawyer do? My best guess is that journos, depending upon specific cases, straddle the mark set by BOLs. Some a little better, some a little worse.

As for whether or not bloggers are "journalists", I'd say no. I think we're just citizens exercising our right to free speech using a method that has only recently become available.

Once upon a time pamphleteering was a somewhat acceptable method of trying to be heard beyond the range of one's voice. Write it, pay to have it printed up or placed within a broader publication, and hawk it or otherwise distribute it. Pamphleteering is now more or less the province of advertisers for Chinese food outlets, car washes, and most anything at all in large cities.

I see us as the '06 equivalent of pamphleteers. We write 'em, few read 'em. Where's the rub?

Knucklehead said...

rws,

They'd much rather spend their time, money, and energy trying to muzzle the dog than they would making their product better fit the modern world.

They claim to be part of the "press" but what they want to behave like is a franchisor. I suppose it is understandable from a commercial/business perspective. Which is, of course, exactly what they are - a for profit business. Nuttin' wrong with that, doesn't make 'em bad people. I just question whether they are deserving of any special treatment as "the press".

Knucklehead said...

A bit OT, perhaps, but I had to spend about 5 minutes sitting in my auto last evening. I've got a one year "free" subscription to satelite radio so I was clicking through stations trying to find some news or talk worth listening to.

When I clicked into the BBC they had on a little program that actually did a good job of summarizing the alternative and renewable fuels issues.

Two things that strike me of note about that. I've yet to hear or see any mainstream US media outlet do anything remotely similar. No doubt it is out there in Time or Newsweek or even Popular Mechanics but I haven't run across it yet.

The other thing is that it covered the ground, in much less detail, that was covered the day after the SOTU speech here at YARGB and over at Roger's Place and probably several dozen other blogs that drew upon a wide variety of sources.

Blogs are informational if one care's to draw out the information and participate.

vnjagvet said...

Knuck:

I think the pamphleteer is a pretty good analogy. Tom Payne is probably the most successful, although Ben Franklin also did some good work in his early years. Later, of course, he was a full fledged publisher.

What blogs have that pamphleteers did not is instant publishing, unlimited findability (is that a word?)and the ability to be read worldwide. Pamphleteers walking the street peddling their wares had a limited distribution network.

Heroic Dreamer said...

Long live freedom of the press! Long live us!

Do I see receding: biased reporting disquised as objective reporting, intentional omission of critical facts or events, infotainment disquised as news, so-called experts superficially and incorrectly reporting on matters which they know little about.....

I can hope.