â€œFor bloggers, itâ€™s all about trust too: except weblogs are starting from zero, building their reputations from the ground up. Blog responsibly, and youâ€™ll build a reputation for being a trusted news source. Donâ€™t, and you wonâ€™t have a reputation to worry about.â€
(John Hiler, Microcontent News http://www.microcontentnews.com/articles/blogosphere.htm)
â€œThe question now isnâ€™t whether blogs can be journalism. They can be, sometimes. It isnâ€™t whether bloggers ‘are’ journalists. They apparently are, sometimes. We have to ask different questions now because events have moved the story forward. By ‘events’ I mean things on the surface we can see, like the tsunami story, and things underneath that we have yet to discern.â€
(excerpt from Jay Rosen in the essay, â€œBloggers vs. Journalists is Overâ€ http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/weblogs/pressthink/2005/01/21/berk_essy.html)
Readers, please excuse my blogging naivetÃ©.Â I presumed in this world of new media that bloggers and journalists, or cyberjournalists, are synonymous.Â This is definitely not the case.
Â It seems, even on this very island there are bloggers appearing as reporters, but truly have no sense of what it means to serve the community in that respect.
A few pages back, I detailed a bloggerâ€™s run-in with the Pahoa postmaster and the police.Â The blogger, according to his weblog, on Christmas Eve was in the parking lot of the post office taking pictures of Americans with Disability Act (ADA) problems when the postmaster â€” the interim postmaster from Kurtistown â€” confronted him for taking photographs on federal property.
The blogger took photographs of police responding to the scene, and police officer Jennifer Lee, specifically.Â Officer Lee reportedly was uncomfortable with her photograph being taken and asked the blogger to erase it.
When I wrote about this bloggerâ€™s run-in with the postmaster and police, I argued, based on the information I had at the time, that this blogger was in the right. And I equated this blogger to a member of the press.Â I see now that I made a grave mistake.Â
This blogger, in a comment today under the entry, â€œPolice Release First Batch of Information On Unsolved Murders; Puna Has The Most, At 13,â€Â describes himself as a â€œcommunication specialistâ€ with a weblog. His self-description, along with weblog entries today misrepresenting the facts about me, my writing career, and www.bigislandchronicle.com, have made me realize he is truly not one of my contemporaries in the press.
Still, yet, I ran into this blogger twice this week, both times acting like he was a reporter.Â I saw him on Monday at the Pohoiki Bypass blessing, where he walked around everybody snapping pictures like he was a reporter like the other folks with cameras.Â I saw him on TuesdayÂ headed toward Luquinâ€™s in Pahoa, carrying what appeared to be a reporterâ€™s notebook.Â He was out and about to inquire about the burglaries that occurred in Pahoa Town during the holidays, he said.Â
Today, as I think about his blogger and his self-description versus how I’ve perceived him in public this week, Police Chief Harry Kubojiri calls me.Â I had asked the police chief to respond to the bloggerâ€™s version of his run-in with the police officer and postmaster.Â
Here is what the police chief says about the Christmas Eve incident involving the police officer and the blogger:Â
The postmaster called police about a â€œmale acting suspiciouslyâ€ taking pictures.Â The postmaster told police he had confronted the blogger, and the blogger did not give a reason for taking the pictures, just continued taking pictures after being confronted.Â When police arrived, the blogger took a â€œclose-up photoâ€ of Officer Jennifer Lee.Â Officer Lee asked the man why he took her picture and he said he planned to put her picture on the Internet.Â â€œShe felt uncomfortable and asked for it to be erased.â€Â Officer Lee asked the blogger why he was at the post office taking photographs and â€œhe didnâ€™t inform her initially why he was there.â€ When the officer asked the blogger for a photo ID, the blogger â€œgave her a business card.â€ Â â€œShe made contact with the postmaster. Â He repeated the guy was acting suspiciously and they had asked him to leave,â€ the chief said.
You know, as far as Iâ€™m concerned, I, and anybody else for that matter, should be able to take photographs of public buildings and public servants, especially police arriving upon scene having been called about you.Â But with that freedom comes a responsibility to not be a public nuisance.
That said, I think this is a good opportunity to raise the subject in our community of bloggers versus journalists, or cyberjournalists, I should say.
Â Jay Rosen, the New York University Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute faculty chairman and author of â€œWhat Are Journalists For?â€ wrote the piece â€œBloggers vs. Journalists is Overâ€ in 2005.Â Â (See link above.)Â While that was several years back, its relevancy remains as timely as ever.Â He asks â€œthe simple, tempting and ultimately useless questionâ€:
â€œAre bloggers ‘real’ journalists? To put it that way is unnecessarily antagonistic. But itâ€™s worse than that. Itâ€™s reductive, and smart people have been calling it that for years.â€
Jay Rosen quotes Scott Rosenberg, managing editor of Salon and a technology-aware writer, who said nearly seven years ago:Â â€œTypically, the debate about blogs today is framed as a duel to the death between old and new journalism. Many bloggers see themselves as a Web-borne vanguard, striking blows for truth-telling authenticity against the media-monopoly empire. Many newsroom journalists see bloggers as wannabe amateurs badly in need of some skills and some editors. Â This debate is stupidly reductive â€” an inevitable byproduct of (Iâ€™ll don my blogger-sympathizer hat here) the traditional mediaâ€™s insistent habit of framing all change in terms of a â€˜who wins and who loses?â€™ calculus. The rise of blogs does not equal the death of professional journalism. The media world is not a zero-sum game. Increasingly, in fact, the Internet is turning it into a symbiotic ecosystem â€” in which the different parts feed off one another and the whole thing grows.â€
Scott Rosenberg equates the blogosphere with a â€œsymbiotic ecosystem.â€Â In this supposed symbiotic ecosystem called the blogosphere,Â the key is for the different species of blogs to have a cooperative or mutually dependent relationships.Â
Jay Rosen suggests, â€œInstead of starting with â€˜do blogs have credibility?â€™ or â€˜should blogging obey journalism ethics?â€™ we should begin in a broader territory, which is trust. Trust as it is generated in different settings, online and off, in both blogging and in journalismâ€” or in life.â€
NYU Journalism Dept. Chair Rosen maintains that, for these relationships to be cooperative and/or mutually dependent, there must be an establishment of trust.
In the virtual world and in the real world, I am personally guided by trust.Â Â I trust situations in order to enter into them, and I trust people in order to stand by them and spend time with them.Â In journaling or in cyber-journaling, as in life, I would hope that people â€˜trustâ€™ in themselves enough to strive toward credibility.
In the last couple of days, Iâ€™ve been pretty disappointed in myself for making mistakes, from collecting mis-information to not being careful enough in my writing and making typos to being careless in my associations.Â As Iâ€™ve stated previously, this blog, and this life for me, really, is a â€œwork in progress.â€Â I make mistakes, and they give me headaches. Still,Â I want to be trusted â€” by my family, by my friends and by my readers. Â Whether they exist in the real world or the virtual world,Â Â I donâ€™t want to differentiate. Â I concede, there is a revolution going on in blogosphere involving journalists with blogs and communication specialists with weblogs.
I strongly believe that if youâ€™re going to walk around with a reporterâ€™s notebook and a camera and engage the community in public dialogue about your findings, you must blog responsibly.Â Â This means taking ownership of your mistakes, and asking peopleâ€™s permission to take and post their photographs.Â
As an effort to facilitate some trust-building, I invite all Big Island bloggers to actively seek out a symbiotic relationship with the local press. Come to our annual meeting at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 23, 2009 at the Coconut Grill. Become a Big Island Press Club member.Â That said, whether or not a blogger is considered a â€œprofessionalâ€ or â€œassociateâ€ is a question that the press club would do well to ask and answer.Â Â Hmmm, here we are in this pro-am revolution. Ah, Grasshopper.
“When you can take these rocks from my hand, it’s time for you to leave.”
(Thanks to a friend — you know who you are — who reminded me to revisit my Kung Fu episodes.)