What's the difference between an Engineer and a Technician? An Engineer must uphold a certain set of /very/ stringent professional ethical standards. If he does not, he will loose the right to work as an Engineer again. People who are not properly accredited are not allowed to call themselves Engineers and work as such because of the high standards to which the Engineering profession must be held.
What is the difference between a Journalist and a Blogger? Well, while no official certification body exists whereby professional standards are enforced in the same manner as Engineering, I believe the differences are essentially the same. The true journalist holds himself (and his peers) to some amazingly high, and difficult to maintain standards. They accept no gratuity, no bribe, write no puff piece, and have no mercy. They report what is and allow the world at large to draw conclusions from the facts that are presented. That there is the real difference: facts. Sticking to them, digging them up, uncovering them and in no way shape or form biasing them ever.
In my personal opinion, there are damned few actual journalists left in the /entire world/. Whatever the medium; television, newsprint or online…the number of journalists who actually hold themselves to such standards could probably fit in a large living room.
Is some guy (myself for example,) spouting his personal opinion all over the internet a journalist? No. That’s editorialising, but it isn’t actual journalism. The days of the investigative reporter are damned near dead. Replaced by people who will rewrite press releases in exchange for a pat on the back or a free toy; or some talking head on the TV regurgitating whatever tripe his political masters give him to keep the ratings high.
A real journalist doesn’t let his personal opinions about anything, from climate change to corporate corruption stand in the way of reporting the facts. They report he facts without any editorialising whatsoever, let you decide, and they constantly take the piss out of everyone and every thing.
Where has the real news organisation gone? The one where, from local news to international, science reporting to art anything clearly not a researched, factual article was clearly marked as such, and often at dramatic odds with the actual investigative journalism that was what sold papers? Why is it that The Daily Show, in it’s satire is closer to actual investigative journalism than almost anything available from the mainstream US?
What about the BBC? I used to practically worship the quality of honest investigative journalism that came from them. The past 15 years or so have seen an awful decline…they are a mere shadow of their former credibility.
That’s what if all boils down to: credibility. Journalists are known for reporting factual truth, and as such you learn to trust your media more than your politicos, your police force, your military and most certainly company PR departments. Can you name any news organisation, from The Reg to the BBC to the New York Times to Al Jazeera, that you can trust without reservation to tell you the unbiased truth? Can you even name a combination of them from whom you can extract an algorithmically predictable signal from the noise?
This is why I read The Register. There are some who write for this rag that I would consider being solely editorial writers, constantly rehashing personal opinions regardless of facts but not an actual professional journalist. Others here are vicious and brutal; they play absolutely no favourites. They bite the hands that feed them…all of them.
For this very same reason, I adore the Nobel Intent section of Ars Technica. The science writers there are fantastic; and they tear everyone, (from scientists to sceptics to regular Joes) fresh new ones on a regular basis. I just can’t stomach their terribly biased tech writing; it seemingly can find no fault with some companies…companies they tend to act as apologists for.
In this, El Reg, for all that it is an online IT Tabloid is still not only so far above the quality of journalism exhibited by regular “bloggers” that even after all that ranting above I still feel I can’t do it justice. Where I start losing faith in humanity is that El Reg, for all the Paris Hilton and tabloid antics and horribly, horribly biased unmarked editorials is still more trustworthy and accurate than most of the major “mainstream press.”
What does that say about the “free press?” Does the fact that anyone can write a blog actually mean anything? Or has this phenomenon weakened the only reliable source of information our civilisation has maintained for over a hundred years to the point of worthlessness? If you accept that true honest to god investigative journalism is almost dead, then where do you start pointing the finger of blame? Fox news and Rupert Murdoch and his ilk most assuredly…but Bloggers bear some of it as well.
Mainstream press isn’t worth saving any more than bloggers are, and vice the versa. What needs saving is the profession of journalism. It needs to become an actual profession…as strictly self-regulated as Engineering or Medicine.
The medium though, really doesn’t matter.