Should Bloggers Share The Rights Of Journalists?


I’m not concerned with the debate over pedigree and process. Anyone caught up in that discussion isn’t seeing the forest through the trees. What I’m asking is whether or not bloggers’ rights should be considered equal to journalists’ within the  Free Flow of Information Act of 2005.

The way I see it, once you strip away the editorial and advertising system that relegates a journalist to certain coverage (and the conviction found within), the only difference between a journalist and a blogger is that the former can lose his/her audience and/or be fired based on poor reporting, where the latter can only lose his/her audience.

That one difference is huge in the conversation of controlling the “free flow of information.”

My POV is from a op-ed perspective, but served with journalistic integrity, as I disseminate topical information and craft perspective without peddling a product in my content. So after reading the first draft of the act—especially the perspective of Senator Richard Lugar (R – Ind)—it seems as though the conversation is being held within the parameters of a business conversation, focused on the issues of veiled product peddling. Here’s one quote from Lugar:

Are bloggers journalists or some of the commercial businesses that you here would probably not consider real journalists? Probably not, but how do you determine who will be included in this bill?

The messy and potentially polarizing part of this issue would be debating the rights of individuals to become a part of a revenue stream while not being controlled by an editorial presence.

Why is that messy?

Well, quite frankly, blogs represent a revolutionary change to the current forum of public debate, political discourse, and all types of commentary that the mainstream media provides, at cost, for sector, industry and entertainment products. Those “closed” arenas all have price tags and salaries attributed to them; blogs don’t.

The longer the power structure doesn’t mention this explicitly in public, rest assured, the more you can be sure that it’s a disconcerting issue for them. Check out this other quote from Lugar:

I think, very frankly, you can make a case that this is a special boon for reporters, and certainly for their role in freedom of the press […] At the end of the day what we will come out with says there is something privileged about being a reporter, and being able to report on something without being thrown into jail.

Does anyone else read that as “we can go after those rumor spreading bloggers” and not “we’re going to protect free speech?”

Politicians and/or corporate executives obviously feel more comfortable when an organization provides over-the-shoulder editorial direction to ensure credibility. Apparently, letting people choose to believe what they want to believe only works when the words come from salaried reporters, pundits and entertainers.

The debate is well under way, with Ken Fisher asking some important questions over at Ars Technica, while Stephen Newton, a PR consultant, presents his perspective on marketing blogging.

Do you even care about the future of blogging?