Via David “DigiDave” Cohn (who got it from Dan Gillmor), I came across a mind-boggling piece of commentary from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, in which former NBC correspondent and journalism instructor David Hazinski argues that “citizen journalism” needs to somehow be regulated by traditional media. As far as Hazinski is concerned, only “real” journalists can make sure that the citizen kind don’t go around making things up and not playing by the rules. As he puts it:

“While it has its place, the reality is it really isn’t journalism at all, and it opens up information flow to the strong probability of fraud and abuse. The news industry should find some way to monitor and regulate this new trend.”

Did you get that last part? The news industry should find some way to “monitor and regulate” this new trend. With what, Dave? A central tribunal of some kind that can pass judgment on who has committed acts of journalism and who hasn’t? Seriously, you can’t make this kind of stuff up. As Dan points out, the news “industry” can barely seem to regulate or monitor itself, let alone everyone else.

Hazinski trots out the old “a guy with a scalpel isn’t a ‘citizen surgeon'” argument, which completely misses the point. Journalism is not surgery, for one thing — or presumably it would be regulated like medicine is, with licensing and testing requirements, and a professional body with the ability to remove a licence. If you go to Afghanistan and start writing about what’s happening, and your work is published somewhere, and you try your best to be fair and accurate, what are you? To Hazinski, you’re nobody.

For more detailed dismantling of Dave’s attempt at an argument, see Dan Gillmor’s post, and Mike Masnick has some thoughts at Techdirt too.

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Mathew 2420 posts

I'm a Toronto-based senior writer with Fortune magazine, and my favorite things to write about are social technology, media and the evolution of online behavior

14 Responses to “Hey, where’s your journalism licence?”
  1. As “real journalism” strays further from providing a true window onto news and events in favour of opinion and comment (telling us what to think) and the sound bite (giving us too little to think about) they are opening the door wide for people like John Tomlin rss@youtube.com (psycho5288) to give us the material we need to make up our own minds (and in a charming and entertaining fashion to boot)

  2. Hazinski needs to define “journalism”. To me, that is researching an event, trend, or situation and portraying that in written or spoken form.

    It is a verb. It requires no noun (“journalist”). Personally, the process is as fundamentally available for doing as “eating” is. No one goes around saying “you aren’t a REAL eater”, do they?

    Sounds like a very defensive argument to me.

  3. To say mainstream media vanguards are defensive would be an understatement. Great journalism has never been more in demand. Its just a question of who will deliver it – the opportunity exists for those who want so seize it, whether its bloggers or ‘mainstream journalists’. Content will always be king, and readers will go to wherever they can get the highest quality, most credible news. Instead of competing with each other, bloggers and journalists should just focus on reporting to the best of their abilities and complementing each other. Regulating citizen journalists… sheesh.

  4. Uh, actually the entire article said:

    “But unlike those other professions, journalism — at least in the United States — has never adopted uniform self-regulating standards. There are commonly accepted ethical principles — two source confirmation of controversial information or the balanced reporting of both sides of a story, for example, but adhering to the principles is voluntary. There is no licensing, testing, mandatory education or boards of review. Most other professions do a poor job of self-regulation, but at least they have mechanisms to regulate themselves. Journalists do not.”

    Hazinski is arguing that journalists ought to self-regulate, if they don’t want to become just another entry at scope.com

    I thought he was making a pretty good point about reputation devices and the availability of self-regulation to establish credibility.

    • I’m not sure he’s making a good point at all, actually — although
      it’s difficult to tell, since his argument wanders all over the place.
      In any case, I don’t see how some kind of centralized management,
      licensing or regulatory control of journalism would improve anything
      in either traditional journalism or “citizen” journalism. I’m pretty
      sure that places like the Soviet Union and North Korea have tried that
      before and it didn’t really work out that well.

      • The Soviet Union and North Korea had licensing boards?

        That is just silly.

        The question is one of maintaining reputation.

        Self-regulation is always that device which wards off even more onerous government regulation.

  5. […] Mathew Ingram on “Where’s your journalism license?” […]

  6. You might want to see my response also published at the AJC the next day. Or you can read it without registering at the blog PJNet.org
    AJC: http://www.ajc.com/opinion/content/opinion/stories/2007/12/13/witted_1214.html

    At the PJNet.org: http://pjnet.org/post/1656/

    • Thanks, Leonard — an excellent response. Although I kind of liked
      TigerHawk’s take on it too :-)

  7. […] abuse. The news industry should find some way to monitor and regulate this new trend.” (Image) (Source) This entry was written by Steve and posted on December 16, 2007 at 2:03 pm and filed under […]

  8. Note that Hazinsky also owns a company, Intelligent Media Consultants, that trains journalists. From their website –

    “IMC has trained hundreds of journalists. We have proven programs for all aspects of news and content production. We go beyond the mechanics of an operation to try and instill a passion about story telling. IMC employes [sic] world class journalists who are passionate about their craft and enjoy teaching what they know.

    We can craft a training package for new journalists or specialized continuing education courses for existing operations. All of our training involves ongoing student evaluation, so you as an employer get qualitative feedback on your employees, or potential employees.

    IMC primary training typically involves Newsgathering, Writing, Assignments, Shooting, Editing and Producing. Technical training for control room operation and master control operations can also be arranged based on workflow.

    IMC offers its own training certificates for participants and in some cases may be able to offer continuing education credit.”

  9. […] Hey, where’s your journalism licence? – – mathewingram.com/work Ugh. Should traditional media monitor and regulate citizen journalism? This guy thinks so… […]

  10. Wonderful article, just added the site to my favorites. Thanks so much.

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