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Friday, March 16, 2007

Ohio's MSM Does Not Own The Word Journalist: It Belongs To All

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Somehow the word journalism has been hijacked. The people who run and own newspapers and TV stations and magazines and even dictionaries have taken journalism for themselves, and groomed it to mean that journalism involves those who gather, write, edit, publish and disseminate news, but only through the traditional big outlets.

I think they have taken a 10-cent word and inflated it and corporatized it, pumping it up along with their own societal self-importance.

Somehow, the Ohio General Assembly has gotten into the act with a law that limits access to certain public records about people who have gun permits to journalists. Big News and its industry lobbyists and editors helped craft the law.

Meanwhile, novelist has not been hijacked. It means someone who is writing a novel. Author still means writer. Poet means someone who works in verse. Diarist is someone who keeps a diary. Many bloggers publish web logs, which is a recent arrival in the digital-era lexicon that describes an electronic journal. But journalists -- writers who record daily events, who journalize -- apparently can work only in journalism, which has come to be defined by the big media as the big media.

This creates a two-tier system. Journalists who put out the Columbus Dispatch, for example, are real, legal journalists. But someone who publishes regularly but not something along the likes of the Columbus Dispatch is not a real, legal journalist. I say hogwash.

For years, I was a newspaper reporter or magazine writer, and sometimes an editor. My preferred word was newspaper person, or reporter, or writer for The Plain Dealer, Akron Beacon Journal or whatever publication I worked for at the time. I never grew fond of the word journalist, though I no doubt used it and even picked up a few awards from The Society of Professional Journalists, which, by the way, has accepted public relations and advertising industry people as members. It also accepts people who work at universities putting out various publications and Web sites, and people who work at government agencies, and professors and teachers. If they can join SPJ, they must be journalists. There are also press clubs in existence around the nation, and many of the people who are in "press clubs" are not newspaper people. The Newspaper Guild, the union that represents newspaper reporters, also includes people who deliver papers and sell ads. Technically, they are involved in "journalism" and are "journalists" because they disseminate and publish news.

The definition of journalist is at issue now in a lawsuit over Ohio's concealed carry law, which says the names of permit holders cannot be released publicly to anyone who is not a journalist. If Jeff Garvas of Ohioans for Concealed Carry says he is a journalist, he should have access to the list. He's right. Case closed. Immediately give him the list of names.

Garvas cannot call himself a newspaper reporter because I don't think he works for a paper as a reporter. He probably is an editor because Ohioans for Concealed Carry has published what I would call a newsletter and blog, which clearly are journals and journalism. He edits his material and he publishes it. So he is a publisher, too. He's disseminating information.

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