It’s starting to get silly, all these discussions about whether bloggers are journalists. During the last election, the discussion centered on how bloggers’ methodologies, biases or lack thereof, professionalism, and skills matched up with what is generally referred to as “traditional” journalism. The latter seems to include print, radio, and television (as if radio and TV weren’t at one time new media).
The latest flavor of this discussion centers on a high-profile California trial this week. Apple Computer has sued three bloggers who published what Apple is characterizing as trade secrets. Apple wants the bloggers to reveal their sources. If the judge determines that bloggers are journalists as defined in the California Shield Law, then the law’s provisions should protect them from revealing their sources, and Apple will have to do its own dirty work in tracking down whoever leaked the secret information. The judge issued a preliminary ruling last week that seems to indicate the bloggers will lose this one, with a final decision due this week.
This is classic information industry “ContainerThink,” behavior that has hampered the industry with every new wave of technology. Publishers and authors think of themselves as being in the book business, or the magazine business, or the news business, and have a hard time separating what they do from the medium they do it in. The bloggers themselves are the only ones who don’t really care that much about the distinctions – they just keep doing what they are doing, willy-nilly crossing over boundaries they don’t see. Meanwhile the “traditional” media, the judiciary, and the legislative branch engage in endless hand-wringing and fruitless debates about the container: Is it news? Is it journalism? Do the same rules apply? The future belongs not to the hand-wringers, but to the people who see beyond the containers.