The Alienable Right to Write
With the growing influence of the Internet in our lives, everyone has become alarmingly aware of the opinions and views expressed through this, now necessary, outlet. What was once seen as a petty response to a news release is now an added worry and chore for publicists and reputable individuals to maintain and monitor.
As the number of vocal and opinionated bloggers continues to grow, journalism has grappled with re-definition time and time again. Loads of questions with a similar theme arise: Who is a journalist? What forms of expression are even considered journalism? (Do websites like Tumblr, WordPress, and Facebook count?) And most important to publicists and the government: what forms of those outlets should be legally protected?
Let’s attempt to tackle that first question: Who is a journalist?
Well, I like to think that it is anyone who thinks that he or she is such. With this in mind, I don’t generally find my friend who posts the regular insightful or humorous Facebook status update about a topic of interest to be a journalist. However, I don’t believe he typically thinks this either.
Rather, he finds himself using Facebook as a means of amusement and validation through receiving “likes” by his friends on those statuses, and nothing more outside that realm.
In the event that he does choose to express these thoughts through other means, I would find this slightly more “journalistic,” in that it is attempting to reach multiple audiences. Again, this is up to his interpretation. I find that whoever thinks of his or herself as a journalist makes a point to define themselves as one. Those that don’t go out of their way to state or prove such are not said journalists.
Now onto the next question: What forms of expression, online and tangible, are considered journalism?
It is because of this era’s rapidly increasing technology-based spread of information and opinions that we are forced to re-define what is considered journalism.
As expressed earlier, I feel that if any sort of writing is shared in such a way that reaches multiple audiences, it is then journalism. It may not always be “high level thinking,” as I feel that gossip magazines are an unfortunate form of news, but attempt to express or share something to more than the writers’ friends.
That being said, I consider many online sites to be sources of journalism. Because the spread of news online has become such a commodity (a cheap one at that), it’s no wonder that nationwide newspapers like The New York Times and The Boston Globe have resorted to online news and smartphone apps to generate news. They are essentially spreading information in the same way as bloggers, so why not consider both as journalism? Now that I’ve deemed most online news as journalism, I have to also consider the actual information that is being written. Now, as lowly or scholarly as it is, all writing being shared with journalistic intent can be considered journalism.
Buzzfeed can post as many lists as they want about our favorite aspects of the 90s and The Los Angeles Times can “tweet” its major headlines 10+ times a day. All of this circulating media is journalism!
And finally, the most challenging question, with all of these forms of journalism: which forms should be legally protected? Online is most certainly the hardest to patrol and protect. To put it simply, there’s just so much of it! And to be honest, I myself have no clue where to begin when it comes to personally “deeming” what sites and newspapers should have legal protection.
However, I can try to offer a solution that is based off of the circulation that I have been stressing throughout this article: Why don’t we offer the sites and magazines that get the most traffic the chance to argue for legal protection if they so desire it?
This way, we help those organizations/writers and we also help those who feel most threatened by them.
If and when a small company shares something that spreads like wildfire, it will also put them on the map for potential legal protection.
This may seem like a lot of work, but it’s nothing that can be too challenging to set up. (Google, want to help out?) If journalists are eager enough to protect their right to express themselves, and if publicists are just as eager to keep that from happening, a middle ground can be found.
A middle ground that mostly agrees with what the general population wants to read.
Katrina Yentch is a third-year literary journalism major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.