Fair and Balanced? Hell, no!

From tomorrow’s New York Times:

In the physical world, being labeled
a journalist may confer little prestige and may even evoke some contempt.
But being
also confer certain privileges, like the right to keep sources confidential.
And for that reason many bloggers, a scrappy legion of online commentators
and pundits, would like to be considered reporters, too.

A lawsuit filed in California by Apple Computer is drawing the courts
into that question: who should be considered a journalist?

Funny, we have been discussing this regularly at our Thursday
night meetings
The consensus among the Bloggers@Berkman seems
to be that to the extent that bloggers want to be accepted as journalists
and thereby get the
access and privileges that accrue to journalists, they are obligated
to follow
written and unwritten rules of professional comportment that define that
honored and historically crucial profession. It is a self-enforcing dictum;
those that violate the code lose credibility and access, and are no
longer taken seriously as journalists.

On the other hand, some of us, including the Dowbrigade,
feel that this is a devil’s bargain, and the last thing we want
is to be considered "journalists," if that means pretending to be unbiased
and subtly or
overtly editing our output in order to preserve the favorable opinion
and paltry
privileges meted out by the power structure to the "approved" journalists.

If that means we miss out on the exclusive interviews
and the A-list events and the after-parties and the scoops and the face
time, so be
it. Journalism is a dangerous profession, for the body, for the mind
and for the soul, and its not for the faint of heart. It is addictive,
and terribly sexy, and creates a rush of action and adrenaline, the feeling
of being tapped
into the
of our
information society.
Gradually, the feeling of being privy to privileged information evolves
into the feeling of being privileged, period. And then the threat of
losing that privilege, of being disgraced and expelled from the brotherhood
can be used to tailor and channel output, focus attention
in certain directions, keep away from dangerous areas.

Once fully into the brotherhood of journalists, the
penalty can be high for betraying the trust of the powers that be. Loss
of job, reputation,
or employability are real possibilities. The stress of sublimating personal
and political preferences in a vain and misconceived attempt at impartiality
can tear apart egos, families and a person’s sanity. Incarceration or
elimination are hazards that touch hundreds of journalists every year.

This is not a fraternity we should be fighting to join. We
should rather be thankful for our foibles, our passionate partisanships,
our phobias
and personal peeves. Fair and balanced?  Hell, no. Welcome to the
real world.

article from the New York Times

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