Back in May a Yale senior interviewed me for her final paper in a foreign correspondent course. She was interviewing several bloggers and asked each of us, “Do you consider yourself a journalist?” I was, she told me, the only one who responded, “No.”
I explained that I am an aggregator, a commentator, and — on a few good days — an analyst. But I very seldom gather, research, and — more importantly — confirm original information, all of which I perceive to be the very tough — in some places, dangerous — work of real journalists.
This morning this old conversation came to mind while reading last Sunday’s Washington Post (six days later).
I have just returned from twelve days of travel. When traveling I depend on my web-based algorithms for details and a scan of the Washington Post, New York Times, and San Francisco Chronicle homepages for a quick overview.
But nothing equals a real newspaper (and today too many printed versions can seem practically virtual) with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and some quiet time to read, reflect, and connect those dots from pages A1, A6, C2, and the ad in the sports section.
I am barely half-way through a week-old Post and have already picked up a dozen valuable inputs that I would have otherwise lost.
I depend upon — and everyone who reads my posts depends upon — Daniel Fowler at CQ, Spencer Hsu at the Post, Eileen Sullivan at AP, Chris Strohm at the National Journal Group and others. Everyday I am simply silent regarding — and too often blatantly ignorant of — important information that these professionals are reporting out.
This riff on the importance of real journalism is prompted by Ian Shapira’s essay in the August 2, Washington Post Outlook Section. It is entitled, Do me a favor: At least blog this. The online version is called, The Death of Journalism. It is a report and analysis of how the significant investment in and considerable value of one piece of journalism was appropriated and cheapened through parasitic blogging. (For what I have done and left undone, forgive me.)
Toward the end of the piece it seems to me that Shapira starts toward — but then backs away from — an assessment of what a certain kind of blogging (all blogging?) does to the economic ecology of journalism. He does not say it, but I perceive the expectation that information should be free-of-cost is causing a commercial and cultural devaluing of information, knowledge, and even wisdom.
Writing this blog is good self-discipline. My professional life requires attention to HS related news, blogging reinforces the care I bring to the task. It can also be — as with yesterday’s post on making meaning — a happy indulgence. But from time to time I am haunted by Samuel Johnson’s warning, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, but for money.”
On the weekends HLSWatch has fewer than half, sometimes less than twenty percent, our weekday readers. But here are three promises and an ask of you:
1. I will not just use links to attribute sources. I will consistently identify sources early and often in my text. I have been inconsistent in this regard.
2. I will use restraint in quoting from the work of others and, whenever possible, will deploy quotes in such a way to encourage accessing the original source. I hope I have usually done this.
3. I will acknowledge reporters by name, not just by the name of their employing organization. I will find opportunities to express appreciation. I have done this too seldom.
When reading my posts I ask that you access original resources and while you are there, give some quick consideration of the time, effort, and cost involved in generating the information provided to you, and even look at the advertisements. Consider it a secular version of doing the stations of the cross, to remind us that what is truly valuable almost always comes at considerable cost.