Bloggers Are Journalists? Uh, No.
Q: As a writer, how do you feel about some bloggers and writers who publish on social media wanting to be considered journalists in a legal sense, and to get credentialed for various events?
A: I'm in favor of anything that creates higher standards for anything, not lower ones. If someone writes on his or her own blog, or otherwise publishes via the Internet in a way so there is NO OVERSIGHT by an editor or someone else who upholds journalistic standards, then my feeling is no, bloggers are not journalists, and should not be treated as such. If they aren't getting paid for material, as part of a job or freelance assignment for a publishing entity, then no they shouldn't be considered part of the journalist profession.
Q: So you, yourself shouldn't be considered a journalist then on the basis of your writing on the Internet?
A: No. I'm not a journalist. I'm not trained as one. There are no standards for me to meet other than the ones I set for myself. Hence, not a journalist in the sense of being a member of that profession at least based on my Internet work. Since I have a fairly long list of articles published in print publications -- HR and training publications, I don't know where I'd fit, but right now, I'd say no.
Q: What about bloggers for websites that are actually owned by newspapers?
A: I suppose it depends on whether their submissions have to meet reasonable standards such as the material that is published in the print versions, and whether they are edited prior to publication. It kinda gets tricky in some situations, but the principle is that a) there should be reasonable standards regarding being a journalist, and b) there should be pre-editing and accountability.
Q: So what about the quality of the lower end ragsheets and scandalsheets where presumably there are some standards, and there is pre-editing. These people are called journalists under the law, aren't they?
A: I don't know what the law calls them. Look, it's an imperfect and inconsistent world. There is material on blogs that is way better than some in print, but that doesn't make the writer a member of the journalistic profession, particularly since they have no accountability to anyone about what they write.
Q: Why does it matter? Why not call anyone who blogs or writes online a journalist?
A: When you remove all requirements to do something, you basically remove the meaning from the category. If anyone who has ever written a word on the Internet can be called a journalist, then most of the population could fit. That means the term journalist has no meaning at all. It fails to distinguish people who fall into the category, and those that do not. The second issue is both practical and legal. Journalists receive preferential treatment under democratic laws because they have an important place -- a role -- in a democratic society. If there are no qualifications required to receive those benefits, is that a good thing for democracy?
Besides, I think that professional designations should be earned as a result of study, performance, and orientation to the professional culture. That said, there's gray areas, and I could see a day when journalistic standing will be available to certain writers who work only in social media. If that can be done in a way that created high standards for the work, I don't have a problem.