Thursday, January 17

Who IS a Journalist?

I was looking up someone who edits a local news-ish website and magazine that's mostly a fancy blog with a lot of paid ads that purport to be articles when I saw the person had a Muckrack profile. After clicking through a little, I realized that I, too, would like to have a profile that puts all my writing together in one place. But then I read the "strict" requirements of being verified. Very ouch, I'm not technically a journalist. But then again, who is?


Here's the strict definition as per Muckrack (my highlight):
The following are not considered media outlets on Muck Rack: press-release distribution services, vanity publications, self-published blogs, shopping sites, marketing ploys, student-run outlets, college or university news divisions, corporate newsrooms, professional organizations’ publications, media produced by a church or religious group, media produced by political groups, and sites that are mostly aggregating or publishing press releases.
Many of these I can see. Problem is that no one reads real news outlets anymore, so there are about half the "real" journalists there were back in 1990. But probably the same number of people working as writers of some sort. PR, bloggers, influencers, and professional social media whatevers.




Self-Published Blogs
I run many self-published blogs, including this one. It gives me freedom, but it also means I'm not considered to be part of the official media. Problem is, just because a bunch of people work for an online news-like source, that doesn't make it any less biased. I just got done reading a bunch of Best Of Jacksonville articles on a local site, all of which were written by someone purported to be a journalist, and all of which were paid ads. That person is probably given a verified profile because the outlet employs several people writing fluff.

Marketing Ploys
The argument could be made that all news articles are marketing ploys. The goal of the journalist is to get you to read the pages, click on the ads, and pay their salaries. The current market dictates that click-bait is better than journalism. Social shares are more important than research. I understand that if I write a bunch of articles about Chromebook covers because I can get a commission for selling them, I'm creating a marketing ploy. But if a real journalist writes a sensational article about home invasions that is littered with ADT ads when someone reads it, that's not marketing?

Corporate Newsrooms
Whether your local newsroom is owned by Gannett, Cox Media, or some investment firm, it's probably not local. Actually, that self-published blogger is probably more local than most legitimate media outlets. Sure, those outlets have some kind of local reporting going on, but it's still a corporate newsroom when it comes down to it.

Media Produced by a Church or Religious Group
I can see that the official newsletter from a church might be seen as biased, but it gets kind of fuzzy when the media company has strong ties to the church. And many articles that come from the church are probably just as legitimate as those that come from infotainment news sources.

Media Produced by Political Groups
If your paper is owned by either an ultra-conservative corporation or bleeding-heart liberal, it ends up being the same thing as being run by a political group, right? It's just not as obvious, and therefore a little sneakier.

Sites That are Mostly Aggregating or Publishing Press Releases
I learned that as far back as the Clinton administration local news channels would use the White House press release as news. If you watch any local news, especially the feel-good stories, it sure seems like a lot of the reporting is just reading the latest news release from some kind of wire or from some local group. The only real reporting is on crime.

Who's Left?
If you wanted to be really strict about it, you'd be left with the news wire reporters. They get paid by all the other outlets for the most real news, and then it's all mangled up and rehashed. And even a lot of the news wire services ad PR to the mix, which is probably how local news outlets end up reporting on corporate publicity stunts. At least the weather is unbiased, I think.