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Reading List for our Leaders

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Living outside the US I am sometimes blown away by the changes – not always for the better – in the fabric of the nation.Bloggers may not be important (or may be) but the First Amendent has been and will be.

Dan Gillmore in his blog “Grassroots Journalism” laments the recent judicial actions begun by- Gasp! Can I bring abuse on the company that makes my very own iBook? – against those it deemed were leaking its trade secrets. They and the judge used the argument that a blogger is not a journalist and therefore is not protected by first amendment freedom.

But if one blogger is not a jounalist; is another? Is Dan Gillmore who had worked for a newspaper for 25 years before quitting? When I first began photography as a shooter and writer, a wise editor (my first) said it was the “age of folding newpapers”. But they do remain and the medium has sent a new message to the world that journalism doesn’t have to be on paper. I guess it could be aural — one day pick up your cellphone and hear the news from…who, a journalist or just a cell phone nut?

When I was in a work-studyprogram in high school working forf the Tampa Times/Tribune and publishing my first photo essay; I remember the great sounds and smells of the paper at 5:30 AM. Pig iron was being melted down from the previous day’s paper, linotype operators were banging keyboards with long wires pulling molds into places where the molten iron would cool into type. The type was arranged into sentences and pages, and “double-trucks” which were two heavy steel rolling tables together to hold both pages of type. Then there were the great machines smelling of ink and oil and sweat. It was my morning treat and a damned sight better than going to high school. At some point before I began college the paper gave me a double-truck on skydiving and a note on page 1.

When I changed careers at mid-life and taught myself to shoot and worked at my writing skills; I had publishers, editors, copyreaders. Does that make me, now that I write a blog ; a journalist? Or not? These days I do not have editors, don’t follow news nor interview people. I don’t even have the energy to do any shooting that would be classed as journalistic unless textbooks or language books are journalism. But what happens if I do? Have I then lost the freedom of the First Amendment? When my old press card was stolen was that the end of my American freedoms?

Another blogger on politics and Apple’s shame in trying to silence those it usually supports (Didn’t Steve Jobs say last year in his address that blogging would replace email, or some such?) This blogger ( I cannot disclose my sources) suggests that the problem is that the current aging judges do not understand new media and the internet. When I worked for a law firm in Chicago in 1967 some of the older judges could barely remember their own names and looked to their clerks to make signs as to what they should do (or who paid the most).

However there is a disclaimer. Many bloggers are not journalists, not professionals, and therefore they may not be allowed to protect their sources in an industrial espionage case. Of course, they are then called “snitches” which could be a worse epithet than “journalist”.

J.D. Lasica, another blogger and journalist writes of “participatory journalism” and quotes Gillmore in this way:

“Part of the problem in the is-it-or-isn’t-it-journalism debate arises from the relatively new idea of ordinary people publishing online — some of them reporting news.

“For the first time, people at the edges of the network have the ability to create their own news entities,” says Dan Gillmor, a San Jose Mercury News journalist who is writing a book about participatory journalism.

When small independent online publications and collaborative news sites with an amateur staff perform original reporting on community affairs, few would contest that they’re engaged in journalism.

When citizens contribute photos, video and news updates to mainstream news outlets, many would argue they’re doing journalism.

But when bloggers comment on and link to news stories, is that journalism? Usually no — but it depends. When the blogger adds personal commentary that relies on original research, or if it is done by someone considered an authority on the subject, some would consider it journalism.

When a blogger conducts a phone interview with a newsworthy subject and posts it to his Weblog — or does some research to turn up the address, phone number and e-mail of an alleged rape victim, as a number of bloggers did in July — some would consider those acts of journalism, too.

The same questions are raised when news organizations open up the channels of interactivity with their audiences. Voting in an online poll surely isn’t journalism, but giving a first-hand report of one’s travels in a foreign country may — or may not be.

And all that is to say that there is no really good answer. Many, for instance, of the semi-literate and nasty comments on internet forums hardly rate as journalism. My blog and this opinion are not journalism. The only sources are already published and obviously professional.

However, this is the important part and it does not include Apple and, only peripherally, this judge
“Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge James Kleinberg refused to extend to the Web sites a protection that shields journalists from revealing the names of unidentified sources or turning over unpublished material.”

It has to be part of a new movement in America to study and understand where freedom came from. It is time for a reading list for judges, border patrol thugs,cops and; yes, need I say it, the junior president from Texas and his henchmen should also be sent an even more complete reading list so that they, too, can begin to understand the nature of the country they are to protect.

This should be done before America totally loses track of the roots of its freedoms — or the freedoms that have been envisioned for it in the past.

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About hfdratch

  • RJ

    “These days I do not have editors”

    Clearly… 😉