Monday, February 09, 2009

Socratic Irony

Conservative blogger Jim Johnson called Twitter "a sign of how the spread of new communication tools can bring major events to us in new and exciting ways." Johnson parses his post by implying Twitter is journalism. Never outright making the claim. Tech blogger Dave Winer wrote a post "Is Twitter journalism?"

"Whether it's journalism or not isn't a very interesting discussion, to me," Winer writes. Further proofing Winer is someone not to be taken seriously. Winer refuses to engage his own question about Twitter's journalistic merits.

Do a search in Johnson's State of Sunshine archives for investigative reporting. There is nothing. Long grueling hours of chasing down people and doing research is not something Johnson feels the need to blog about. Johnson will write about Janis Krums' photo of USAir Flight 1549. Johnson didn't deem the investigative reporting work by the Miami Herald and St. Petersburg Times on the Ray Sansom controversy worth mentioning.

Joe the Plumber is paid to go to Israel and spout off his opinions in safe zones. Real journalism is Lara Logan going into actual combat zones and reporting war's ugly truths. Johnson shares the mentality with other conservative bloggers that Tweets, blogs, and Facebook notes is real journalism. The media and print outlets are secretly part of the Democratic Party machine. How they are able to exclude Fox News, the National Review, the New York Post and Weekly Standard is a leap in logic.

I use Twitter. Many blogs post their RSS feeds to Twitter, including Pushing Rope. This is a convenient way for PR readers to follow the site. I make no claim that I am doing journalism (except in some of my Mark Foley coverage.) That would be disrespectful to fellow bloggers Ron Brynaurt and Lindsay Beyerstein. Both have broken news stories on their respective blogs. They now work as journalists. Ron pulls sixty hours a week editing Raw Story. Lindsay is working the financial beat at the Washington Independent. They earned the right to be called bloggers-journalists. The rest of us are voicing our opinions.

Twitter isn't journalism. It is texting and photo images. Technology will never make journalism. Dedicated individuals willing to unearth facts are journalists. Twitter isn't going to spend hours looking through zoning documents or cover the quality of life in crime ridden communities. There isn't anything sexy about field interviews or reading public documents. Conservative bloggers lament the media. Johnson is making a firm stance by writing about Twitter for the alt-weekly Creative Loafing. Johnson is a true master of Socratic irony.

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12 Comments:

At February 09, 2009 4:04 PM , Blogger tas said...

I gave Jim's post a quick glance.. I don't think he said that Twitter itself is journalism. I agree with him that Twitter gives us new avenues of looking at the news.

There are benefits and detriments to this. Of example when the terror attacks struck Mumbai, I immediately found Twitterers in Mumbai and got either direct updates about the attacks or links to local coverage of it. Both avenues provided me with better information then I would have gotten off, say, CNN, and quicker than CNN could have ever brought it to me. Same with the Gaza War.. I still get tweets from the Israeli QassamCount letting me know when Palestinians in Gaza have launched more rockets. The media usually responds a few hours later (after Israel has responded...)

So Twitter can bring quick on-scene reports that provide little to no context, or links to great articles that either summarize the latest events or bring in context. One detriment, though, is you never know where the tweeter actually is from... GazaNews claim to be in Gaza (and from all account, they probably were), but how would I really know? I think we're going o see some high profile Twitter fraud soon because it's too easy to create an account and say you're someplace when you're actually not.

Of course, is this journalism? No. The bar for journalism is set too low, as far as I'm concerned. Most of the shit on CNN, Fox, and MSNBC isn't journalism -- it's talk. It's opinions about the news. Hey, that's great but is that journalism? No. Journalism is "news creation" -- you find a story and report it. Sometimes a story falls on ones lap (like a plane crashing into the Hudson), and other stories you have to do further digging for.

This brigs up the question of whether or not the tweeter who snapped a photo of the plane crashing into the Hudson played a journalist role or not. I think Jim may have a point here... Were they in the right place at the right time? Yes. Did they intend to be a journalist? Probably not. But is what they did any different from what a photographer employed by a newspaper does? The answer to that is no. Saying this tweeter played no journalistic role is the same as saying a news photog isn't playing a journalistic role -- sure, the latter plays a major larger role because it's their paid gig, but that misses the point. So kudos to the tweeter for breaking a story. But just like telling a joke doesn't make one a stand up comedian, this doesn't make that person a journalist. I don't think they claimed to be such anyways, so no biggie.

But will Twitter play a role as an aid to journalists and news watchers? Certainly. I can't really imagine not having a twitter account these days.

 
At February 09, 2009 5:04 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

First, there has to be some defintion of "journalism." Journalism can mean Woodward and Bernstein -- and in that definition, I am not a journalist. I never pretended to be one - so to ask people to review my site for evidence is a bit preposterous.

That said, journalism is not defined by the method of delivery.
Twitter is a method of communicating like "paper" and cable television. These methods are also NOT journalism, although journalists use them to communicate.

Moreover, investigative journalism is not the only form of news. I will say that in 5 years or less, most of the people reporting "news" will not be paid to do so. There will still be Woodwards and Bernsteins doing important investigative journalism... but "news" is more than that.

"News" can be short messages and images - like Twitter.

 
At February 09, 2009 5:21 PM , Blogger Michael Hussey said...

Jim, is journalism or what you call "news." I don't think you care if media companies go down. I care about who will cover Tampa's business and metro "news." That won't be bloggers going out there to report for free. The lack of community news coverage affects the quality of life and people we elect. Jefferson hated the Fourth estate, but he knew it was important.

What are bloggers going to do with no news services? Link to other bloggers?

Moreover, investigative journalism is not the only form of news. I will say that in 5 years or less, most of the people reporting "news" will not be paid to do so.

Your old post wasn't generating traffic. I just helped you with your payment plan. You really need to learn how to pimp your posts.

 
At February 09, 2009 6:07 PM , Blogger tas said...

I will say that in 5 years or less, most of the people reporting "news" will not be paid to do so.

That's rather scary to think about. Who will hold governments responsible... The ilk of rightwing bloggers now making faux-complaints about "porkulous" that doesn't even pass the fuzzy math test? That isn't journalism, that's herd mentality.

 
At February 09, 2009 6:25 PM , Blogger Michael Hussey said...

I will say that in 5 years or less, most of the people reporting "news" will not be paid to do so.

There will be less people going out to do actual reporting. Investigative reporting is more costly. The cable news shows do talk because it is cheaper. They have no interest in doing 60 Minutes-style shows. Anderson Cooper comes the closest. People watch cable news during 9-11, Katrina, etc. Viewers want to see reporting. Now people yelling at each other.

 
At February 09, 2009 8:44 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I care about who will cover Tampa's business and metro "news."

The issue is what you and I consider to be newsworthy is different.

For starters, let's hold investigative journalism aside for now. We pretty much agree there.

The bigger problem is really the virtual lack of local coverage by media organizations. Looking at the headlines from TBO.com (I don't by papers, waste of money):
* Super Bowl Boosts Tampa's Image 6%, Thanks To Al Michaels
* SEC Enforcement Chief Quits After Madoff Criticism
* Tampa Banker Warns That 2009 Looks Gloomy
* Tampa Airport Improves On-Time Performance
* Bay Area Governments Receive Settlement Checks
* Florists Hope Valentines Day Brings Bouquet Of Business

These stories were not spontaneously generated by the reporters, they were fed by PR hacks. Why shouldn't PR hacks send press releases to bloggers, too?

In fact, that is how most "news" is generated: reporters weed through dozens and dozens of press releases they get to determine what should be followed and what shouldn't.

To me, I see a future where that kind of news is available for free from all kinds of sources. So there will be plenty of potential links out there.

When I start blogging full-time, for money, then I will do more "journalism" ... but for now, this is just a hobby.

 
At February 09, 2009 9:03 PM , Blogger Michael Hussey said...

Why shouldn't PR hacks send press releases to bloggers, too?

That is already happening. I get a shitload of press releases. I ignore most of them.

In fact, that is how most "news" is generated: reporters weed through dozens and dozens of press releases they get to determine what should be followed and what shouldn't.

That is what Jeff Gannon did. He ran press releases straight. That isn't news, journalism or analysis. I do analysis on this site. Agree or disagree with me -- I don't make shit up. Bloggers need better access to information. Not press releases.

 
At February 09, 2009 11:42 PM , Blogger tas said...

That is what Jeff Gannon did.

And here I thought he fucked other men for money...

 
At February 10, 2009 2:10 PM , Blogger Deborah Newell said...

I love the post's title, Michael, because it gets to the essence of that which we're discussing here. If one considers the reporting of events to be actual journalism, as opposed to just the reporting of events, then yes, Twitter, is a form of journalism, as is being in the right place at the right time and having one's camera batteries fully charged.

Contrarily, one may have learned (or otherwise come to the the conclusion) that bona fide journalism, viz. the seeking of truth(s) within an event or story by methods of investigation and questioning, is a more serious and substantial discipline, one that not only requires a fair bit of training but also a rigorous adherence to a code of ethics.

I think blogging can go either way, to be honest--there are bloggers who are professional, who perform the necessary due diligence and fact-checking, who treat every interviewee as a potential source, and who ask the tough questions of a candidate (or other aurhority figure). And then, there are bloggers who merely report events that have already happened and confirm conventional wisdom, also known as gossipmongers.

My verification word is bumstean, quite possibly the best one I've ever seen.

 
At February 10, 2009 2:45 PM , Blogger Michael Hussey said...

And here I thought he fucked other men for money...

Jeff Gannon also fucked over serious journalism.

Contrarily, one may have learned (or otherwise come to the the conclusion) that bona fide journalism, viz. the seeking of truth(s) within an event or story by methods of investigation and questioning, is a more serious and substantial discipline, one that not only requires a fair bit of training but also a rigorous adherence to a code of ethics.

Short version: gimme my motherfucking press releases.

I checked my email box and I got two press releases. I'm a journalist.

There will still be Woodwards and Bernsteins doing important investigative journalism... but "news" is more than that.

Investigate journalism is disappearing. Tampa's Creative Loafing never recovered from John Sugg moving to the Atlanta branch. The Washington Post, New York Times and Wall Street Journal can afford investigative reporting. Smaller newspapers do not have the time, patience or resources. It is obvious Johnson shares other conservative bloggers contempt of journalism. He just words it in a David Brooks-style fashion. Coming out with Pajama's Media rants will get Johnson laughed out of the room.

 
At February 12, 2009 11:44 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unlike conservative bloggers, I don't have disdain for the media. I don't believe their bias has that much of an effect on elections.

I just view "news" differently. As I commented on your latest post - not all news is journalism.

The fact that you and I receive press releases does not make us journalists. But what we do is "news".

Not sure why that is so hard to understand. Perhaps I am not explaining myself clearly.

 
At February 13, 2009 12:41 PM , Blogger Michael Hussey said...

I think I understand, Jim. I think what we do is wonk blog. I wanted more detailed news stories. Not bite-sized pieces. News coverage has become fast food. That is fine sometimes. Not for explaining the stimulus bill or Afghanistan.

 

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