Stowe Boyd just posted about a new program specializing in 'Entrepreneurial Journalism' at CUNY, and I got excited because I thought it was going to focus on strange folks like me who combine building companies and writing stories. I was disappointed to see that it's actually just a traditional course for producing professional journalists, with just a bit of lipstick added. So what's my big idea?
I spend a lot of my time working on articles that look awfully like newspaper or magazine stories. I've had those articles excerpted and discussed on places like the New York Times site, NPR and The Atlantic. I do original research, including picking up the phone and calling people. Despite all this I don't consider myself a journalist, nor do I particularly want to be called one. Everything I'm doing is driven by a combination of my own curiosity and the benefits that publicity brings to my startup work.
In the twentieth century, journalism became professionalized and turned into something you are instead of something you do. This had a lot of benefits in an age where the means of distribution were concentrated in a handful of editors' hands – notably it enforced norms of behavior that restrained reporters from abusing the great power they possessed.
These days there's much more of a continuum of people who produce articles that look, smell and feel like journalism to their readers. Are these part-time creators journalists? That term's the cause of far too many arguments, as the professionals feel offended at the devaluing of their own hard-earned credentials and the part-timers at the denial that their work is worthwhile. I think it's much more productive to return to talking about journalism as something you do, not something you are. Since I'm practically American now (two years until I can convert my green card into a passport!) I felt I should coin a neologism to join 'deplane' and other horrid barbarities, so from now on I'll be talking about my journalizing.
If journalizing is seen as much more of a skill that ordinary people can learn to varying levels, then maybe we can escape the loggerheads of journalists-versus-bloggers arguments. Do paramedics bitch and moan about people learning first aid and devaluing their jobs? Hell no, my most recent class was even taught by one volunteering in his spare time!
In the last few years that I've spent blogging, I've gained so much respect for the people who can produce streams of well-written articles for a deadline, year after year. Maybe if more people had hands-on experience of the work that it takes, it would actually be a better world for professional journalists?