Monday, September 05, 2011

"We're All Journalists Now"?

As Frédéric Filloux makes clear, the headline here is nonsense.  Hence the question mark.  But it is nonsense, perhaps, not for the reason he, or most who write about journalism, thinks.  It's nonsense because journalism is no longer something defined by employment and can no longer be considered a "thing."  It's a process, today, not a profession.

The contemporary problem may be that the "professionals," in seeking to re-define themselves in light of new situations, are trying to find ways of making the process their own, of ensuring that there will be a remunerative future for them even if the very concept "journalism" becomes as quaint as "blacksmith."  So, rather than trying to open up the process, as Jay Rosen continues to do, many of them continue to build walls between what they do and what others, including those often disparaged as "citizen journalists," do.

Even Rosen, though, believes 'the press' is worth preserving.  And he may be right.  The process represented by the idea of 'the press' certainly is needed.  Rosen breaks down (quoted by Jeff Jarvis) the problem entailed:
The users don’t care about “journalism” all that much. That’s the name the producers of it have for what they do. News, information, “what’s happening,” accountability, staying in touch, alert system, “just tell me what I need to know…” Yes. The users care about those things. Journalism? Not so much.
Users want the sausage, but don't care all that much about how it is made, as long as it doesn't make them sick after consumption.  This is why journalism-as-process doesn't excite, and is a bit of a turn-off to those who become "journalists" for reasons other than participation in the process.  It's a lot of work: people like Andrew Breitbart and James O'Keefe, people who yearn for the spotlight, aren't interested in that.  They end up among those who try to keep "journalism" alive as a cloak, as something certain people get to wear as cover for their activities.

The problem of celebrity aside, Jarvis's piece, the one where he quotes Rosen, presents a refreshing perspective on what journalism is, and is becoming.  He writes:
Journalism is not defined by who does it and who does it does not define journalism.
So what is journalism, damnit?
I don’t know.
There is no "is" there.  A process hasn't the static position necessary for definition of the sort wanted here.  Journalism isn't what anyone or anything is, but something anyone might (not can) do.

Jarvis continues:
I think we need to question — not reject, but reconsider — every assumption: what journalism is, who does it, how they add value, how they build and maintain trust, their business models. I am coming to wonder whether we should even reconsider the word journalism, as it carries more baggage than a Dreamliner.
He may be right.  Even as process, it might be trying to carry too much (including the Breitbarts and O'Keefes of the world).

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