Does everyone have to play by the rules?


The Information age has given people access to nearly every corner of the globe, high quality cameras that fit into phones about the size of a wallet and the ability to disseminate information in seconds.

Now that everyone has the potential to create and distribute news, everyone can technically be a journalist. The “democratization of journalism” has been covered up and down by various types from bloggers tapping out endless opinions to academics scribbling research papers, but few outlets seem to discuss accountability.

Journalists are held to a high standard and are meant to follow a code of ethics as well as adhere to the minute writing and reporting rules presented in the Associated Press Stylebook, but for the most part it’s only the people who have bothered to learn about these things that follow the rules.

Typically those who have attended a j-school, or trained in a very traditional environment understand the weight and history of what being a reporter means. For example, the idea that news is written from independent perspective with no bias (or as little bias as one can manage).

In contrast, the sheer volume of content that is produced by the Web shows a number of people and outlets branding themselves as news when they deliver about as much actually news as Fox News.

Even larger outlets of non-traditional journalism have failed with respect to the public. Earlier this year after a plagiarism scandal, BuzzFeed pulled almost 4,000 different posts. No retraction was printed and BuzzFeed Founder Jonah Peretti argued that as a tech company, not a media company, BuzzFeed did not need to follow the rules of journalistic integrity.

This kind of action raised plenty of eyebrows and had scores of people arguing that despite any tech origins, BuzzFeed definitely needed to follow the rules of journalism simply because they were acting like journalists. This thought comes to the core of the argument if it looks like a journalist, acts like a journalist and reports like a journalist, it should probably try to work from the high-standards expected of a journalist.