I struggle nearly every week with an identity problem: Am I a blogger or a journalist? Most times, I can take the easy way out and think of myself as the nouveau blogger/journalist or journalist/blogger — but which one comes first? nags my inner pigeon-holer.
Last week’s blog post (or was it a long-form piece of journalism?) on MediaShift about the blurring of the line between journalists and bloggers left out one big example: me. I often struggle with how much personal information I want to put on this blog, how much I want to make it about me and how much it is about the world outside my bubble. In this case, I probably failed on both counts, ignoring myself as an example, but then injecting myself in the sources I chose for the story.
I was criticized in the comments for using the same old tired examples of journalist-bloggers and not including enough non-journalist bloggers, not to mention interviewing only men. Fair enough, and it’s the one sin of journalists that I’d most like to change in what I do: only talking to the same group of “experts” for each story. I would like to broaden my range of interviewees and sites that I cover, and am hoping that Jennifer Woodard Maderazo as associate editor is helping to do that each week.
But back to my identity problem. My career as a journalist has jumped around from print to online publications, and my work has appeared in trade magazines, daily newspapers, email newsletters, text books, glossy magazines, glossy books, blogs, academic websites, and more. So I shouldn’t necessarily be defined by where my work appears. I don’t remember calling myself an “email writer” even though at one point it seemed like most of my work was designed for the email format.
At the moment, I am living on the border between blogger and journalist. I am a blogger who is published at a traditional media website, PBS, with most of my posts being published without an editor (such as this one). And once per week, my Digging Deeper posts are edited first by a PBS producer, and I very much appreciate that editorial filter when I am doing more in-depth work.
I prefer to post longer pieces to MediaShift, and perhaps they read more like columns than blog posts. Many people have described what I do as an online column for PBS and I rarely would correct them on that. But I also do want people to comment on my posts, and tell me when they think I’m wrong. Plus, I do update posts with more information as I get it from readers. That seems more blog-like. And I follow the discussion on various blogs to see where my posts lead.
Playing the Perception Game
Personally, I’d rather not spend my time worrying whether people think I’m a journalist or blogger or journablogger or whatever cross-breed I am. But there are times when the question does matter, and I have to consider which one I am to get what I need.
If I am going to a conference and planning to do live-blogging, then I tell them I am a blogger. But in some cases, saying I’m a blogger can have an adverse effect, similar to the problems of getting press credentials for some bloggers.
A couple years ago, I tried to get a press pass to cover the music portion of the South by Southwest conference for MediaShift. I told them I was a blogger for PBS, and their response was, “We don’t give out press passes to bloggers.” What if I had told them I was a columnist for PBS?
When I first contacted Google News about getting MediaShift into the sources included on the news aggregator, their automated response noted that “Google News does not include one-person websites in its sources.” I took that as code for “bloggers” or at least one-person blog sites. I later petitioned them to include me by pointing out that I did have an editor and was distributed via PBS. In the end, they agreed to include MediaShift.
So while the distinction between blogger and journalist (if it ever really existed) has slowly dissolved, all the infrastructure around recognizing who a journalist is — from press credentials to legal protections has changed very little. So whether I really am a blogger, a journalist or a blogger/journalist might not matter to me, but it will matter when I’m trying to get a press pass or if a judge wants to ferret out my anonymous sources.
What do you think? Does it matter what my identity is, or how people view me? If you’re a blogger/journalist, how do you deal with these issues? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Photo of dogs fighting by Raleigh St. Clair via Flickr.