Jay Rosen was right when he wrote that "Bloggers vs. Journalists is Over." Yet here I am, writing this on Jan. 19, 2011, about two days shy of that pronouncement's sixth anniversary, and the fact is, we're still fighting those same battles in many of the same quarters. My advice to Jay comes from The Laws of Combat: "When you have secured the area, make sure the enemy knows it too."
So yes, despite the ongoing skirmishes, Jay was correct when he wrote...
The question now isn’t whether blogs can be journalism. They can be, sometimes. It isn’t whether bloggers “are” journalists. They apparently are, sometimes. We have to ask different questions now because events have moved the story forward. By “events” I mean things on the surface we can see, like the tsunami story, and things underneath that we have yet to discern.
The problem with Jay's post is that he went vague at the end, talking about "things underneath." And since we have struggled ever since to define what those murky, pesky, things underneath are, people keep fighting over who has credibility.
I have a theory about those things underneath. I think it's basically one thing: Those of us who consider ourselves professional journalists don't want to hold our craft to an explicit, accountable standard for the information we provide. And since we won't do that, then the simple truth is that (to borrow a phrase from Laurie Anderson) bloggers and journalists, professionals and amateurs, are all really just drawing out of the same box of crayons.
You can't really blame us. Our news business bosses would never foot the bill for the job, and the talk talk talk TALKING required to get to such a thing is annoying even in the abstract. But we can't stay where we are, in this Lost World limbo, not forever.
In 2005, Jay wrote that the place to begin exploring the next phase in journalism is on the subject of trust. Again, he was right, but in retrospect, the problem with the options we explored in those days was that all our claims to trust were essentially the same sales pitch, spun in different ways. Ultimately, the problem with bloggers vs. journalists, with Old Media vs. New Media, is that they're really just not all that different. We're just telling you stories.
I think that if you really want to change the trust game, if you really want to establish a press that is credible, then the way forward is through standards. Not the goals masquerading as professional standards that have always passed for "press standards" (I discuss this in greater detail in the parent essay to this child page), but actual ISO-style information standards. And there is no practical way to create 21st century information standards without 21st century information tools.
I believe that class of tools begins with a semantic content management system. I consider the concept revolutionary not because the tools and techniques employed are so novel (they aren't), but because such systems offer the chance to produce a persistent revenue stream that's independent of emphermal advertising value. It's revolutionary because its a future for journalism that actually creates market value based on quality, reliablity and usability.
The irony? Once we create these tools, the people and groups that use them will create the standards for our 21st century press. And it won't matter to history whether those people are professional journalists or professors or passionate amateurs or techn entrepreneurs. They'll simply be the next step in evolution.