Advocates argue that the acts of collecting and distributing makes these people “journalists.” This is like saying someone who carries a scalpel is a “citizen surgeon” or someone who can read a law book is a “citizen lawyer.”
It is precisely the fact that occupational journalists are not “professionals” on the same plane with physicians (or nurses, attorneys, veterinarians, accountants or even optometrists) that is finally being exposed by blogging.
Elsewhere, Kip wrote:
…journalism is not a true profession, therefore there is no such thing as a “professional journalist”…
Actually, I think anyone who gets paid for journalism is a professional journalist, but that doesn’t make journalism a profession. It’s unfortunate that the word root has these two different meanings, but I think the first one is as correct as the second.
That said, one of the distinguishing features of a profession is that you can get sued if you screw it up, and that just doesn’t happen to journalists, as far as I know.
I’m not just talking about getting sued for libel or invasion of privacy—we can all be sued for those—I’m talking about a legal obligation to give correct information. If journalism was a profession, then licensed journalists who screwed up a story could be sued by readers who relied on it and suffered damages.
Occupational journalists face no mandatory educational curricula. They face no licensing examinations, no continuing education requirements, and need not subscribe to any legally binding code of ethics.
The very fact that occupational journalists often cannot see the difference between a journalist and a surgeon is why they are increasingly being ignored. They are not credentialed — and it drives them batty that laypersons no longer see any need afford them the respect that they afford the true (i.e., credentialed) professions.
From my reading of Hazinski’s piece, that’s precisely what he’d like to change, with national standards and licensing—much of which would depend on journalism professors like him.
Although Kip characterizes this as “licensing bloggers” I really don’t think that’s where Hazinski was going. I think he’s mostly trying to warn mainstream media companies to be careful about publishing web stories or photos contributed by outsiders, and to that end, he has several recommendations:
- Major news organizations must create standards to substantiate citizen-contributed information and video, and ensure its accuracy and authenticity.
- They should clarify and reinforce their own standards and work through trade organizations to enforce national standards so they have real meaning.
- Journalism schools such as mine at the University of Georgia should create mini-courses to certify citizen journalists in proper ethics and procedures, much as volunteer teachers, paramedics and sheriff’s auxiliaries are trained and certified.
(There’s so much wrong in that last paragraph. I’m not sure which is worse, that he thinks an uncertified journalist is as dangerous as an uncertified paramedic or that—by lumping them in with volunteer teachers and cops—he seems to think paramedics are are some kind of volunteer doctor.)
The national standards and certification are a silly idea, but the training is not. I do some citizen journalism for the Chi-Town Daily News, and we have regular training sessions where experienced journalists explain the rules and the tricks of the trade. The stories are small-time and local, but that’s kind of the point of citizen journalism.