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Thursday, September 29, 2005

To what kind of journalists should bloggers be compared?

Over at Fort Wayne Observed, Nathan Gotsch asked his readers to comment on whether they thought he was a real journalist. Some insisted that journalists could be distinguished by their level of formal university training. Others chimed in to deride that thinking, citing examples of accomplished journalists local and national who did not have university training.

There was certainly a thread running through that perhaps journalists were distinguished by whether what they were doing was as a paid professional whose employment was determined by others.

The proprietor of Fort Wayne Observed shrewdly held back the information that he had, indeed, been paid by a nationally distributed periodical for his journalistic work. He revealed that factoid after most had had their say.

I have not met Mr. Gotsch. I know him by reputation, though. What probably ought to be remarked on is that he is a filmmaker and distinguished by formal university training in his field of the kind that seemed to matter much to one of the comment authors. As far as I know, he hasn't made any documentaries and wouldn't claim to be a documentarian. But I imagine he could tell a story in film that many of those who wrote cannot.

In my eye, that alone would not make him a journalist.

Leo Morris wrote the best when he talked about the revolutionary shift going on in how information is being reported. Leo was looking at the great sweep of change that has always been a part of journalism. He looks ahead and he knows what is happening on Fort Wayne Observed is journalism.

Some of what is occuring will be akin to the days when any pressman in a town put out a broadsheet that did as much to advertise his job printing business as it did to present information. And much of what is occuring in cyberjournalism does look and will look as partisan as Tom Tigar's paper was in the 1800's.

But Leo sees that when enough people do what Nathan Gotsch does, you will be seeing the emergence of a real system of reporting real news of real usefulness.

Do I see Nathan Gotsch as a real journalist? Yes. I called him a proprietor above. He may most be akin to a man I knew in my youth - Don Montgomery, the publisher of the weekly Allen County Times in New Haven. Don was a real journalist who had a beat which he covered thoroughly and, as the case with many weekly newspaper owners, with some gentleness. He had owned several weeklies in the state in places such as the town of Attica, Indiana. He was well-respected, too, by his fellow publishers across the state, because Don functioned as a newspaper broker as well.

Men I knew like Don,such as his predecessor, Ching Weber, and Ossian's Ed Peck were pretty much the same upstanding guys. It didn't matter which party they belonged to - Ching was a Democrat, Don a Republican, and Ed remains today a staunch conservative Republican. (He is also the father-in-law of Allen County Sheriff candidate Ken Fries).

What they had in common was that they owned the press on which their paper was published. They also, in order to carry on what they did, had to retain the respect of most everyone in their community. What are the names of people like that today? They may not own the actual press on which the paper is printed but certainly have the second quality of those men I mentioned.

Well, Lois Ternet of the Monroeville NEWS, would be one. She doesn't even own the paper but treats it as if it were her own.

Oh, and another name, Nathan Gotsch.

It's sort of a "what's in a name" thing. I think you have to define the characteristics of a journalist that you wonder whether a blogger shares.
I think bloggers could be compared to graffiti artists.
Not all bloggers care whether they are journalists, nor do they all accept that a blog must be operated in a certain way in order to be "worthy" of this or that. There are many kinds of writing skill, and many ways to learn publishing.

I'm sure some of us just use a blog as a place to publish our own perspectives on various subjects, like a journal where others may link up to browse or lurk or comment. I notice newspaper editors often do this very thing even as they wonder whether other people should be doing it. ;^D
To be fair, Nathan Gotsch did direct a documentary. It was entitled "A Change of Plans". It was released in 2001 and won several awards. There is a listing for the film on the Internet Movie Data Base.
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