Returning the Favor and other Slices of Life

Returning the Favor
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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Are bloggers journalists? Are journalists bloggers?

The Fresh Princess poses an interesting question over at Pokerati about conflicts of interest in blogging, and links to this interesting CNET article about the topic. Which got me thinking. are we journalists?

Obviously there are some of us who are. Nobody's going to question the journalistic abilities and ethics of Dr. Pauly or the Up For Poker boys. But what about the rest of us? Those of us who aren't doing this professionally, or at best are doing this "semi-pro." Or more to the point, really, what about me? Because that's what it's all about, right? Me.

My blog, bitches, of course it's all about me. Believe it or not, this is something I've thought about before now, and before the whole ReviewMe controversy and before I started doing sponsored posts for PayPerPost. Once upon a time I took a journalism class, and was filled with all the idealism of becoming the next Bob Woodward. Only chubbier. Then I found out how much reporters get paid and decided public education would be far more lucrative.

So what am I? Well, I'm not a journalist, at least not here. This blog is not about reporting news. I might occassionally throw you a bone if I get wind of something newsworthy, but usually that's going to end up on Pokerworks. That's where I'm writing the things that might be looked upon as news. Or analysis of news, or regurgitation of news, or something like that. I like the work I do over there, because it allows me to fulfill the Woodward jones I still occassionally have, and I think I've done some decent writing over there.

But not everything I write there is like this article, which I thought was a pretty good piece on the WTO case between Antigua and the US. Some things are promo pieces, designed to inform visitors to Pokerworks about tourneys or new features on online poker sites, which by the way are the main method by which Pokerworks pays its bills. Those pieces aren't journalism by any stretch, they're ads. And there's nothing wrong with that. Pokerworks needs to pay the bills, including mine, and sponsorships by online poker rooms is how they do that. I don't think anyone is going to confuse this article I wrote promoting Mermaid Poker's freerolls with Haley's epic analysis and investigative report on the WSOP website and all its permutations.

But does that make me less of a journalist than Haley? No. The thing that makes me less of a journalist than Haley, or Amy, or Pauly, or Otis or any of a number of other folks is that I'm not a journalist. I'm a writer. A scribbler. Every once in a while I'll get a chance to put on my Woodward hat and dig for a story, or break down a big pile of facts with decent analysis. But not often.

Usually, I'm a storyteller, a bard, a drunken scribe sitting in the corner looking at events through my own filter. And that's I suppose the big difference for me. Journalists are supposed to be objective, to subjugate themselves in the facts and the reporting thereof. Bloggers are by nature individual, and we celebrate our filters, our individual take on the facts, our spin on events.

And that, I suppose, is what makes this more fun. I don't really know if this ramble made any sense, but the end isn't what matters here, it's the journey. I guess I boil it down this way. Pokerstage is my gay online diary, and Pokerworks is where I write professionally, with more a sense of journalistic responsibility. So far, it's been a good ride. I enjoy writing the stuff I write at Pokerworks, and I couldn't stop this crazy train over here even if I tried. But I'm not a journalist, so I don't hold myself to those standards. I am however a writer (some days moreso than others), and damn proud to be one.


Short-Stacked Shamus said...

Interesting discussion, Falstaff. I agree -- bloggers write for all sorts of reasons, some of which occasionally coincide w/what motivates journalists. The ethical questions brought up by the Fresh Princess & in the article are certainly relevant to blogs. How relevant they are to a particular blog, though, depends on the purposes/intentions of its author.

HighOnPoker said...

Hey Falstaff. I really like what you have to say on this. Especially, "Usually, I'm a storyteller, a bard, a drunken scribe sitting in the corner looking at events through my own filter."

I think that is true for the majority of poker bloggers. We are not so much reporting as we are commenting or storytelling. There are the reporter-type blogs, and those blogs should be held to a higher ethical standard, but overall, most of us are just hacks (and I say that lovingly) who are just giving our viewpoints on the information that we find elsewhere (be it in our own gameplay or in current events that we learned through other channels).

Joe Speaker said...

This is a topic near to my heart as I was trained as a journalist and work in Old Media, while I also blog and embrace New Media.

The nature of blogging leads to more inherent conflicts of interest. In Old Media, there is a wall between the business and editorial side. Not so on my blog where people are paying me directly. This is a de facto conflict based on the old rules of journalism. The question is if those ethical standards are applicable to New Media.

Old Media screams and pouts that they are. Me...I'm not so sure. As a reader of blogs and newspapers, I apply a different standard whend doing so, based on my perception of the trustworthyness of the information and the disseminator of said information.

Old Media likes to stand on their soap box of Fair and Balanced, I've been party to plenty of misconduct in newsrooms, from pop music writers re-selling their promotional CDs to editors pushing reporters for "designer quotes" to fit their version of the news. And of course you have Jayson Blair, Stephen Glass and Janet Cooke as more obvious examples.

From a blogger standpoint, if you want to be taken seriously as a journalist, then you need to accept there are ethical limitations. I don't think accepting advertising is one of them, but being a thinly-disguised shill for that money is. You'll need to augment your opinion with facts to back it up. And you can't just run around calling people 'assface.'

Falstaff said...

Given your day job, I was hoping you'd weigh in on this question, Joe. But can I be seriously if I call people assface while wearing a tweed jacket with leather patches on the sleeves?

Thanks for the comments, everyone. I'm loving the opinions everyone has.