Hardball on EmergencyCheese

 

As BloggingItIn, I checked the definition of journalism on Wikipedia:

Journalism is a style of writing or communicating, formally employed by publications and broadcasters, for the benefit of a particular community of people. The writer or journalist is expected to take the help of facts in describing events, ideas, or issues that are relevant to the public. Journalists…. gather information, and broadcast it so we remain informed about local, state, national, and international events…..”

Interestingly, the last debate on the discussion page about the relationship between new media and journalism dates back to 2004 and is not reflected on the page in general. Does it need to? Is there a difference between, for instance, what James Kotecki on the YouTube channel EmergencyCheese does and what Chris Matthews does on Hardball?

They are both gathering and publishing information to inform me as a viewer about important events, but Matthews has an old media company behind him who pays him an awful lot of money. Kotecki is just himself using his Macbook to report from a modest dorm room on the Georgetown University campus. Hence, Kotecki was not formally employed by a publication or broadcaster. Does it make him less of a journalist?

 Yes, according to the Wikipedia definition. No, according to Dan Gillmor, author of We The Media, YouTube and blogs are among the tools that “allows anyone to become a journalist at little cost and, in theory, with global reach” (Gillmor, 2006, intro).

What we see is that journalism is moving from being a lecture to a conversation or from one-to-many to many-to-many. Both Kotecki and Matthews are offering news commentary and analysis. I also think shows like Hardball and Countdown with Keith Olbermann are aired in primetime because viewers want to watch parts of the conversation and not just what the Boys on the Bus present to them. According to an article in the New Yorker about Keith Olbermann, the show’s ratings grew nearly 70 percent when Olbermann started his Special Comments, and the show did not make money until this point. (The problem is of course, as we have concluded earlier in this semester, that we tend to participate in the concentric circles of our own political ideology.)

Kotecki is a journalist just like Matthews because he employs the core value of journalism: accuracy and fairness, Kotecki is participating in the larger conversation about the elections and he provides context. It does not matter whether he or any reporter belongs to a formal publisher or broadcaster. But as Jay Posen stressed out at PdF 2008, there are professional and amateur journalists. Both of them belong to the press, and they connect online. “It still works vertically: press to public. It also works horizontally: peer-to-peer. Part of it is a closed system – and closed systems are good at enforcing editorials controls – the other part is an open system,” Posen noted. And there is the main difference between Kotecki on EmergencyCheese and Matthews on Hardball; Kotecki is his own editor, Matthews is referring to an editor. Posen argues that the two systems do not work the same way, but that does not mean they are enemies. The future of journalism is a merger between professional and amateurs and openness with some control.

You can argue that old media like MSNBC has done some critical thinking and background test since they allow Matthews to broadcast his views. On the other hand, I would never have watched EmergencyCheese if the wisdom of the crowd had not let the channel be featured on YouTube. Call to action: Someone should revise the Wikipedia page including the nuances of journalism in the 21st century.

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