Can anyone be a journalist?

Posted by Tim Weideman

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As the popularity of blogs continues to grow and the public becomes more annoyed with everyday news, everyday citizens are venturing out and creating their own news stories as “citizen journalists.”

In fact, YouTube set up a channel last year for users who want to learn more about creating professional news stories. It features videos that share tips on proper interview techniques, professional reporting, asking the tough questions, video production, ethics and much more. It’s a great collection of videos.

Essentially, YouTube has given everybody on the Internet a general 101 on how to be a citizen journalist. This got me thinking: If an everyday blogger can go out and create a good story, how does that separate her/him from a journalist? Can anybody do a journalist’s job?

First, journalists need to use the education, experience and talent they have to put together  high-quality stories, videos, etc. As someone who reads news stories and blogs, and watches TV news and video blogs, it’s easy for me to identify the differences between professional and citizen journalism. I’d say most people who care about real news can do the same.

But as more people have access to the resources journalists themselves use to put together stories and more talented bloggers pop up on websites, professionals must rely on objectivity, honesty, ethics and getting all the facts more than simply relying on education, experience and talent. That will separate them from citizen journalists.

“Miami Herald” columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. says in his Oct. 6 column on citizen journalism that because a citizen has the tools doesn’t make him a journalist, just like a person that merely has a syringe  isn’t a doctor. Journalism is a real profession because it has ethics and standards, says Pitts.

It’s scary to think you might have entered a profession that people think anybody can do. But when journalism is practiced the right way, the differences between professionals and John or Jane Doe are much easier to see, and bloggers appear to be less of a threat.


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