So what is a journalist?

There is a very long (it isn’t TL;DR because I actually read it) article by  The Guardian’s Deputy editor, Katharine Viner, about modern online news gathering, journalism and the threats and challenges in the Age of the Open Web.

There are many, many pull-outs from the article and I will run them in a series over the next few weeks.

The first part is her discussion about what a journalist is…

“So what is a journalist?” is the question that’s being asked, in a classic example of the sort of self-examination that happens in a time of crisis.

Margaret Sullivan says in the New York Times that “a real journalist is one who understands, at a cellular level, and doesn’t shy away from, the adversarial relationship between government and press”. I like this definition because it’s about a state of mind, not a closed shop. Journalists need to be on the outside of all kinds of power – political, institutional, corporate. We are here to find things out which otherwise wouldn’t be known – and while journalistic experience and techniques are excellent qualifications for this, you don’t need a press card to do it. 

Yochai Benkler, who testified at Private Manning’s trial in July 2013, said that journalism isn’t what you say about yourself, it’s what you do: “It’s not a unique organisation or individual identity. It’s a behaviour.”

Journalism as a behaviour. Journalism as something you do, not something you are.

In a provocative post headlined ‘There are no Journalists’, Jeff Jarvis wrote: “anyone can [now] perform an act of journalism… anyone informing anyone. We [need to] reconsider journalism not as the manufacture of content but instead as a service whose goal is an informed public”.

People are performing acts of journalism everywhere.

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story.  And when he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet.   Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet, and as a result he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist that takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him.  But you can’t ignore him.