The Prince Edward Island media intelligentsia has been all aflutter for the past several weeks over the admittance to and subsequent expulsion of local blogger from the Legislative Assembly’s Press Gallery. Following on from the original story there’s been a column in the local newspaper and a panel discussion on the local morning radio show.
The common thread running through these discussions has been a tacit assumption that blogging is sort of “journalism lite.”
Guardian Editor Gary Macdougall used the phrase “hobby journalists” to describe what bloggers do, and underlying the CBC panel discussion was the notion that we all need to consume this stuff called “the news” and that there’s a battle between bloggers and journalists to see who’s going to deliver it in the future.
But these bloggers vs. journalists debates set up a false dichotomy: in straining to compare blogging to journalism commentators are making the mistake of assuming that because bloggers and journalists both “write about things,” they are, of necessity, somehow part of the same enterprise.
Comparing journalists to bloggers is like comparing journalists to poets or novel writers or songwriters or graffiti artists or priests: yes, we all interpret the human condition in our own peculiar ways, but the blogger is no more treading on the domain of a journalist than the poet is.
I’m a committed and passionate blogger: it’s deeply woven into the fabric of how I live. But the exciting thing about blogging for me is not its perceived abilities to “recast the news landscape,” it’s the notion that regular everyday citizens have, in the Internet, a publishing platform the likes of which we’ve never seen: low cost, low barrier to entry, global distribution of words and images.
And what’s exciting about that has nothing to do with the product and everything to do with the process.
What happens when, for all intents and purposes, everyone has a printing press and a television studio and is responsible to no entity but their own conscience when using it? How does that change public discourse? How does that change how people think about themselves in relation to society’s institutions? In a world where anyone can publish anything at any time, how do we attach value to our own small bit of the dialogue?
By obsessing on the “market for content,” we’re missing that the tranformational aspect of these “new media” isn’t about consumption but rather about production: what happens when we’re all free to create in ways that have heretofore been beyond the means of the common person?
Who cares what gets created – that’s simply the by-product – the heart of the matter is how it’s created, who is creating it, and what doing so does to them.
Obviously journalists need to be part both of interpreting this and considering its implications for what they do. But so do school children and portrait painters and guitar players and choreographers and ecologists.
I am not a journalist.
The words I write in this space I write for myself alone, without consideration for their consumption. I write about things that happen to me, things that interest me, things that happen in my neighbourhood and things that happen in the world.
If you happen to read what I write here, that’s great, but I’m not writing for you, and while I may be interested in your reaction to what I write, this blog is not about you, or what I’m writing about. It’s about how my life is enhanced by the very fact of writing itself.
That’s not journalism.
And because you have to be inside it to truly understand it, it’s not something that’s easily hashed out in a David vs. Goliath-style morning radio debate or a journalist’s newspaper column.
Should bloggers be able to join the Press Gallery? That’s no more than a bureaucratic diversion: the real and profound questions concern whether an engaged population of producers actually needs a Legislative Assembly at all.