Bill Keller, executive editor of the New York Times, gave a long and passionate speech in London last week at a memorial event hosted by The Guardian — the full text of which is here — and in it he said many valuable and wise things about the practice of journalism (although he kind of glossed over stuff like Jayson Blair and Judith Miller, but whatever). However, he also said a couple of really dumb things about blogs and social media. Those dumb things are ably skewered by Jeff Jarvis at Buzzmachine, who Keller referred to in his speech.
In a nutshell, the NYT executive editor says Jeff and his ilk are of the view that bloggers and “citizen journalists” can more or less replace traditional journalists — and then Keller goes on to say that can’t possibly happen, because journalists like those at the Times have standards, training, put themselves in harm’s way in pursuit of the story, etc. etc. The only problem with all that, of course, is that hardly anyone — and especially Jeff Jarvis — is arguing anything like that.
As Jeff notes — and Dan Gillmor does as well — Keller’s argument is a straw man, designed to pump up traditional journalism at the expense of some pseudo-horde of random “citizen journalists” who want to take their jobs. Why can’t we admit that in some cases, people who haven’t been anointed with the title “journalist,” either by someone at a journalism school or by an editor at an established news outlet, can at least help to produce journalism? Why is that so hard?