View Full Version : Who is a Journalist?

12-28-2005, 11:13 AM
Belmont Club - Who is a Journalist? (http://fallbackbelmont.blogspot.com/2005/12/who-is-journalist.html) (More on the Washington Post article on Bloggers and IO).

...I think Ranting Profs comes close to the essential issue when observing: "Finally, there's a recognition that the enemy is engaged in information operations, that there needs to be some critical reflection regarding what they do and how they do it, that there's a strategy underlying their behavior. On the other hand, that's treated with equivalence to information ops American forces engage in. The difference is American forces are trying to influence the way articles are placed by, you know, influencing the way articles are placed, while the enemy are trying to influence the way articles are placed by staging events -- meaning by killing people. It ain't quite the same thing."

But the weakness of this argument is that it reduces everyone to a propagandist working for one side or the other. To avoid unfairness in dishonesty, dishonesty must become general. That renders the question of legitimacy moot, but I believe it is not. Legitimacy is rooted within an a journalistic piece itself; it is not an added on at an editorial desk in a famous building. Consider Patrick Cockburn's report on the Iraqi elections at the Independent:

Iraq is disintegrating. The first results from the parliamentary election last week show the country is dividing between Shia, Sunni and Kurdish regions. ... The election marks the final shipwreck of American and British hopes of establishing a pro-Western secular democracy in a united Iraq.

It is totally irrelevant to question Mr. Cockburn's motives, intelligence or literary style. The only source of legitimacy that matters is whether Mr. Cockburn's journal of events is accurate. If Mr. Cockburn's description of Iraq as disintegrating proves true then his tidings, however unwelcome, will not be propaganda any more than reporting the sinking of the Titanic was. But by the same standard, most of Bill Roggio's work at the Fourth Rail and Threats Watch will pass muster as legitimate journalism in terms of accuracy, his lack of regular press credentials notwithstanding. Mr. Roggio has written many accounts of operations in Iraq which have not been contradicted by subsequent events. The clear mark of a propagandist is one who consistently misrepresents events, allowing for occasional errors which every human being must make. Track record matters. The reason that John Burns of the New York Times may be better regarded than Robert Fisk is because Burns has consistently proved the better observer of events. Moreover, the longer the retrospective, the better Burns looks.

The Ranting Professor correctly says that both the US and enemy sides are consciously engaged in an information war. What is overlooked, I think, is that in the battle for credibility accuracy matters. If their claims to superior accuracy were undoubted, the mainstream media can easily afford to ignore the amateurish efforts of a few soldiers and bloggers to get 'the other side of the picture' out. In terms of professional writing skill, press credentials and technical support, Mr. Roggio with his scrounged up $30,000 can hardly hope to compete with professional journalists backed by Fortune 500 companies. That he and others like him are considered a threat says more about the mainstream media than anything else....