This is a concept I’ve been struggling with for a while. I see bloggers, podcasters, and YouTubers portray themselves as journalists quite often. But are they?
The more traditional part of me wants to laugh at their pipe dream, considering that newspapers, TV and radio, and magazines fit into the definition of media and journalism that I’ve had most of my life. But times, they are a changin’. The term ‘new media’ isn’t new anymore. Bloggers, podcasters, and YouTubers, as a whole, are mainstream and it appears they are here to stay.
While I’ve seen this on occasion in governmental and emergency management media relations, I see this most often in another facet of my life – pop culture. Along with being a blogger on emergency management and homeland security matters, I’m also a co-host on several pop-culture and entertainment related podcasts. Looking at things like fan conventions (think ComicCon and similar events), dozens and even hundreds of media badges are given to bloggers, podcasters, and YouTubers. While some media credentials go to more traditional media outlets, the proportion is rather staggering. In entertainment and pop culture this makes sense to a great extent. Many who pay heed to pop culture also seem likely to consume blogs, podcasts, and YouTube content. It’s also not necessarily location-bound (i.e. following a new media provider because they are local to you and report on local things – although some do). The free media badges given out by convention organizers turns into free promotion of the goings-on of their events – so it makes sense, but what are the limits? The sheer number of people applying for media badges for these events is staggering, and many are denied.
Why is new media so popular? On the provider end, the barriers to entry are insanely low. Generally, you need a computer, an internet connection, and an account to whatever portal you want to push your content through. There are a few other resources needed depending on the actual medium, such as cameras and microphones, editing software, etc., but good quality in all of these can be found at very reasonable prices. You can also go really lean and do it all from your smart phone. Certainly there are the intangibles such as talent, good ideas, and persistence, which all tends to cull the herd.
On the consumer end, people crave new media content to read, hear, or see more about the things that entertain and interest them. Despite things said about people’s attention spans, most blogs I read (as well as my own) have a reasonable length to them. Most podcasts run 30-90 minutes. YouTube videos tend to be shorter, but obviously tend to have a higher production value. There is also a huge variety of new media available, with differing opinions and formats, and generally something for everyone.
But the question still remains, is new media actually journalism? Obviously, I haven’t missed the irony in this. Despite having and maintaining a blog for several years as well as my involvement in podcasts, I don’t consider myself a journalist. At best, I’m an op-ed writer on the blogging side; and whatever the equivalent is on the podcasting side. I appreciate that people value the content and opinions I put out there, but I’m no Walter Cronkite (really who is, but Walter himself?).
At the risk of taking heavy fire from my fellow bloggers and podcasters, I’m reluctant to broadly categorize much of new media as journalism. It just seems there needs to be something that qualifies you to use the title. I’m not saying a certification or anything bureaucratic like that, but honestly I don’t know what it should be. When any person on any given day with little investment can suddenly announce that they are a journalist (or honestly anything), that tends to not sit well with me. There needs to be a demonstration of commitment and professionalism.
There are some bloggers, podcasters, and YouTubers that I would consider journalists because of their longevity, their professionalism, and their following, but these are few. I think most new media folks are entertainers. Some are informers, yet still not journalists. But there are some that are journalists, and they should be respected as such.
On the event management side of this (both in regard to pop culture as well as emergency management), where does the paradigm sit and does it need to change? How do you determine who you will give a media badge to? In emergency management and government as a whole, it’s long been a best practice to maintain positive relationships with media outlets. What kind of relationships, if any, are you maintaining with bloggers, podcasters, and YouTubers? Do you need to?
I’m interested in thoughts and opinions on this – from everyone. Are you a producer of new media – Do you consider yourself a journalist? Are you a traditional journalist – what’s your take on this? On the government and emergency management side – are you involved in media relations, and if so, what are your ideas? Are you not involved in either, but have an opinion? Please share it!
© 2017 – Timothy Riecker, CEDP