100 articles – ‘Who’s a journalist? Does that matter?’

7 June 2011

Written by: Lawrie Zion

Who’s a journalist? Does that matter? by Dan Gillmor

What is a journalist? Dan Gillmor says that is the wrong question. The right one — what is journalism?

Journalism is information about the world that the public are interested in hearing about. In this 2010 article in the online magazine, Salon, Gillmor discusses the idea that we all commit acts of journalism by sharing information, and so the title of ‘journalist’ is old-fashioned. He says that people were referred to as journalists ‘in the era of scarcity, when there were relatively few outlets’, but now that we have online media, including opinion websites, blogs, forums, and more, everyone has the opportunity to share information to the world. So does that make everyone a journalist?

The example used in the piece describes a blizzard in Oklahoma in 2009, and how residents posted local road conditions, and information about places that people can go to for safety. This isn’t ‘traditional’ journalism, but it was much more useful to locals of the city than anything that a working journalist could do.

The word ‘journalist’ is far too narrow these days to give an accurate description of everyone who commits an act of journalism. Perhaps what matters most is not whether the author in question fits some definition of a professional journalist, but rather the quality of what’s been said, whatever the format and whoever is saying it.

Sofia Monkiewicz is a Journalism Honours student at La Trobe University and is currently working on a thesis about the role of arts journalism in Melbourne. She loves theatre and music, and you can also follow her on Twitter @soffffff.

Want to contribute to our list of the 100 articles every journalist should read about journalism? Full details, including the list so far, can be found  here.