One of the questions that we get asked as beginner journalism students is “what are the qualities of a good journalist?”. Very early on we start to define the profession of journalist. The qualities we associate with the term “good journalist” are often of an ethical nature, which is fine, by all means.
Nowadays however we live in a world where “journalist” isn’t an obvious definition. It used to be easy. Someone who works for a newspaper, for example. But now, when someone live tweets what goes on at a crisis (i.e. the bombing at the Boston Marathon), are they being a journalist as well? Or do we only speak about an act of journalism in this case?
And if we follow this reasoning, instead of saying that anyone can be a journalist, should we say that anyone can perform an act of journalism?
I agree that the term “journalist” should only be reserved for those who are the actual professionals. So in the most conservative meaning of the word; someone who is employed at a newspaper, online newssite or radio/tv station. Everything else is citizen journalism – not ignoring the fact that citizen journalism can indeed be proper journalism.
On first sight it might be a question easily answered, but when you think about it, there’s a lot of grey area. Diving further into this subject can only help clear it up a bit. Here’s a couple of articles on the same subject, that might be interesting to look into.
Why defining a journalist is messy, but crucial, by Jonathan Peters
Why journalism needs to ‘do’ ethics, not focus on defining journalists, by Stephen J.A. Ward
Let’s stop defining who is a journalist and protect all acts of journalism, by Josh Stearns