>Principles of Journalism

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Sometimes on Infosnack, I post trivial things.  Stuff like the humorous bracket of bank and finance corporation mergers that makes lighthearted fun of the recent credit crisis.  Stuff like what words I’m going to drink to for political speeches.  I hope at least some of my readers enjoy or at least tolerate that.  It’s fun for me and that’s half of the reason I write this blog.  I enjoy it and don’t take it too seriously.  Find a link, write some comments, and post.

Not so for the large, researched articles on Infosnack.  These are the kinds of articles that get picked up or linked to on other sites.  For those, it’s all business.  I consider myself a journalist.  I call the media relations office, file FOIA requests, interview people both for the record and "on background", and perform original research.  I try to present the information fairly and accurately, and make sure it’s clear when I’m stating my opinion rather than fact.

WMATA recently responded to my PARP (like FOIA) request for reduced fees by arguing that because I am not in the business of actually disseminating the information as opposed to merely making it available, then I am not a member of the media. 

In this case the question is very important because if I am a member of the media, I get reduced or eliminated fees for information requests.  I can also request expedited treatment if a story is breaking or urgent in nature.

I think their distinction is not the proper frame of mind for determining whether I am a member of the media.  Who cares whether I own a worldwide network of wires that carry data to a broad audience of readers?  That’s not the way information is distributed nowadays.  I make the information available, and then try to disseminate the idea of where that information is available.  I do this through having an RSS feed, sending links to like-minded bloggers, and posting comments on other sites or mailing lists.  I also receive a lot of readers through search engines like Google.

I think the proper frame of mind is whether I am following or making a serious effort to follow the principles of journalism.  I found a list on the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism:

  1. Journalism’s First Obligation is to the Truth
  2. Its First Loyalty is to the Citizens
  3. Its Essence is a Discipline of Verification
  4. Its Practitioners Must Maintain an Independence from Those They Cover
  5. It Must Serve as an Independent Monitor Of Power
  6. It Must Provide a Forum for Public Criticism and Compromise
  7. It Must Strive to Make the Significant Interesting and Relevant
  8. It Must Keep the News Comprehensive and Proportional
  9. Its Practitioners Must be Allowed to Exercise Their Personal Conscience

What do you think?  Am I living up to the principles?  What makes a blogger a journalist?  Are all bloggers journalists?  Are none of them?  Can you do journalism as a hobby, or must it be your full-time job?

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About perkinsms

I'm an engineer and father interested in transit, parking and economics.
This entry was posted in bleg, journalism, meta, rights, WMATA. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to >Principles of Journalism

  1. Mark says:

    >That sounds silly.You’re as much a “member of the media” as, say, the Podunk Times, or, say, cnn.com.Do they recognize the Washington Times as being ‘media’, even though that’s run by a religion/cult?On the other hand, I don’t think ‘the media’ should get special rights that I do not. You are running your newspaper/blog/tv show because you enjoy it, make money doing it, or want to make people think like you. That’s your own business, but if it IS your business, you should pay the same fees as CoDB. If it is for fun, you shouldn’t get special rates. If you believe that your site is a public good, that is fine, but the Metro shouldn’t have to subsidize your belief system.In summary: You are a member of the media, but the media should not get special deals.

  2. Dan Miller says:

    >mark, if that’s true, then the fees should be set low enough that it’s not onerous for an individual citizen to take advantage of them. If you don’t mind my asking, what are the fees? And if this would seriously impact your ability to get this sort of information, you should start a petition or something–I’d gladly sign on.

  3. Michael says:

    >Copy or scanning costs are $0.15 per page. Search, review, redaction and considering formal objections (e.g., by contractors) are at 150% of the reviewer’s wage rate. If you owe more than $250, they have to collect fees in advance.If there are significant costs associated with these PARP requests, I may put out the paypal “hat” here and at GGW so I can continue to drag information out of WMATA. Hopefully there will be a few kind souls that feel this is worthwhile.

  4. Roy says:

    >If someone wants to find info on the WMATA, you’re on the second page of Google hits. First page for “WMATA blog”. People who wanted to disseminate (“scatter widely, spread abroad, promulgate”) information a few decades ago would have killed to be that good at it.The only good reason I can think of for giving “the media” special rates is that, because they’ll make the resulting information public, it should reduce the need for other private requests for it in the future. You fit that criterion perfectly.

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