What is a “journalist”? Does someone receive that status only if a news organization pays them to hold the title?
Or could a blogger writing for themselves with no link to a media company be considered a journalist?
According to a federal judge in South Carolina, it’s quite possible they could.
The most important section of the ruling is the one dealing with Smith’s status as a journalist. The court admitted that it was impossible to determine in advance whether a blogger was a journalist and so used a “functional analysis” that “examines the content of the material, not the format, to determine whether it is journalism.”
The judge noted that Smith wrote the article in order to convey information, that he had done research in preparing it, that he addressed both positive and negative aspects of his experience, and that he provided a checklist for others to use. “The fact that Smith reports negatively about his experience with BidZirk does not dictate that the article’s function or intent was not news reporting or news commentary,” wrote the judge. Furthermore, he noted explicitly that “some bloggers are without question journalists.”
The opinion of one judge isn’t likely to settle this issue. And certainly many of the 70 million+ bloggers out there are not doing anything like journalism (this mess is exhibit A).
However, as the judge noted, when it comes to identifying “real” journalists on the web, “it’s not about the title, it’s about the content”.