News Media Should ‘Regulate’ New Media/Bloggers


By: Warner Todd Huston

In another arrogant piece from a “professional” journalist claiming that Internet journalism is “dangerous,” one where the writer imagines that he is somehow the personification of truth in “reporting,” we get yet another screed on the theme that they are the only ones that should be allowed to be called “journalists.” And this one is a hoot, too. In an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, former journo and current professor David Hazinski seems to imagine that it’s the job of the “news industry” to “monitor and regulate” the content of blogs and Internet journalism. No, I’m serious, he really said that! This self aggrandizing piece is so filled with blind assumptions and presumptuous pap that it quite literally boggles the mind.

Lately, we have seen quite a few of these screeds against Internet journalism with nose-in-the-air, self congratulatory philosophies underlying their logic. Hazinski’s takes it to the next step, though. In Unfettered ‘citizen journalism’ too risky, Hazinski, a former NBC correspondent and current professor of telecommunications and head of broadcast news at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism, has graciously deigned to lower himself and his fellow “professionals” to the role of overlord, making sure we ignerint Internet writers conform to the obviously higher standards that he and his fellow journalists employ so successfully in their field — can you say Dan Rather and Jayson Blair?

Amusingly, Hazinski can’t even grant that citizen journalists could be either a citizen or a journalist, it seems, as in nearly every usage of the term he puts scare quotes around the words “citizen journalists” calling the relative truth of both words, singular or combined, into question. Even the title of the piece uses quotes around the words to call into question the legitimacy of the term.

It ranges from the CNN YouTube debates to political blogs to cellphone video of that sniper who opened fire at an Omaha Mall. These are all examples of so called “citizen journalism,” the hot new extension of the news business where the audience becomes the reporter.

I love how he says “so called” preceding “citizen journalism.” I use that convention a lot myself and I mean it to eviscerate the legitimacy of what follows, not merely to gently question it. Who can doubt that Hazinski is using the “so called” in the self same manner here? I found myself considering his contentious use of quotes in this context, though, as I’d find it more contradictory to say that real journalists themselves are “citizens” of anything, really. Other than their apparently closed fraternity of so-called professionals, of what are they citizens? After all, how many times have we heard news hounds claim that their first loyalty is to the news and not their country?

But, of course, this potentate, jealously guarding his keyboard from the encroachment by the hoi polloi, has determined that what we do “really isn’t journalism at all.” Worse, he feels it is the duty of his better, smarter kind of folk to somehow “regulate” what happens on the Internet.

Supporters of “citizen journalism” argue it provides independent, accurate, reliable information that the traditional media don’t provide. 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.

Who does he think he is, the King of all information? Does he imagine that his presumed professorial position somehow has created for him a monarchy wherein he may determine what should be “allowed” to be called “journalism”?

But, wait, his arrogance over what is and is not real journalism gets even funnier as he seems to claim that the USA has missed the boat by allowing “anyone” to claim they’re a journalist.

But unlike those other professions, journalism — at least in the United States — has never adopted uniform self-regulating standards. There are commonly accepted ethical principals — two source confirmation of controversial information or the balanced reporting of both sides of a story, for example, but adhering to the principals 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.

Before I go on, did you catch his seeming lamentation that there are no standards for journalism even here in the US? I’ll repeat it…

But unlike those other professions, journalism — at least in the United States — has never adopted uniform self-regulating standards.

Does this fool realize that the “standards” that exist in other countries aren’t “self-regulating” and only exist because the governments there either impose them on all forms of journalism or tyrannically run all news agencies themselves? Does he “get” that there aren’t “self-regulating” standards for journalists in much of the world? Mr. Hazinski, do you realize that most news agencies in the world are not free but are controlled and operated by government agencies, government appointees and government thugs? Are those the “standards” you lament us not having, sir?

And, what is the result of a lack of these standards according to Hazinski?

So without any real standards, anyone has a right to declare himself or herself a journalist. Major media outlets also encourage it. Citizen journalism allows them to involve audiences, and it is a free source of information and video. But it is also ripe for abuse.

Hmmm. Like the NYT’s Pinch Sulzberger who’s “professional” standards and qualifications amounts to his having been born into the family that owns The New York Times? You mean “standards” of professionalism like that?

In any case, it is amusing to any disinterested bystander that Hazinski imagines the world of American journalism has somehow become professional to the point that “standards” rule the industry, anyway. In fact, it is absurd of him to even imagine that, with a free press, there could be such a thing as universally imposed standards. What ever the case, he imagines that HE should dictate what is allowed to be seen by the public and he gives some elitist and oppressive prescriptions to regulate what he wants to call journalism.

  • Major news organizations must create standards to substantiate citizen-contributed information and video, and ensure its accuracy and authenticity.
  • They should clarify and reinforce their own standards and work through trade organizations to enforce national standards so they have real meaning.
  • Journalism schools such as mine at the University of Georgia should create mini-courses to certify citizen journalists in proper ethics and procedures, much as volunteer teachers, paramedics and sheriff’s auxiliaries are trained and certified.

In other words, all that is published and seen by the people should be passed through his screening process first! Like the beginning to the old Outer Limits TV show of the 1960s, “We control what you see,” is the by words for Mr. David Hazinski. And again with this view that only his select few fellow “professionals” should be the ones to regulate the rest of the content so presumptuously created by the great unwashed on the Internet. I just cannot get over this guy’s arrogance. Who the heck does he think he is!?

His last bit is a great topper for arrogant pronunciations.

But we have already seen the line between news and entertainment blur enough to destroy significant credibility. Continuing to do nothing as information flow changes will further erode it. Journalism organizations who choose to do nothing may soon find the line between professional and citizen journalism gone as well as the trust of their audiences.

This fellow obviously knows nothing whatsoever about the history of American journalism, the concepts of liberty, nor the effects of the free market and the discernment of readers. There has never been a time — and there is certainly not now — in the history of man where the “news” could be trusted merely because there are supposed to be “standards” involved in its publication. There has never been a source of news that can be trusted merely because they claim to be observing such “standards.” What’s more, over the years since the birth of Internet journalism, one of the chief products of the medium has been the exposing of the failures, lies, and bias of the so-called professionals. So, how can we trust to Hazinski’s “journalism organizations,” all of whom have been so continuously lambasted and exposed by this fledgling media, to properly regulate our work?

Lastly, there is no control that Hazinski’s vaunted “journalism organizations” can exert that is conducive to liberty or a free press. The basic standard of trustworthiness needed to assure that news is truthful is applied equally to everything whether there be any official agency to impose it or not and readers know this instinctively. The integrity with which the news is published is, was, and always will be a spotty proposition employed by some and not others as we can see by picking up any newspaper or watching any TV news effort. In the end, Hazinski is fooling himself more than anyone else that he and his fellows are somehow more accountable or more “professional” than any one else and that he is any better qualified to judge what is real journalism than anyone who blogs or writes news stories delivered exclusively on the Internet.

But, don’t go all confusin’ him with truth, will ya?

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