In the last week, the meaning of journalism and journalist has expanded. Inside Climate News won Pulitzer Prize for national reporting… without a traditional newsroom. It’s a nonprofit organization in Brooklyn with seven employees and the mission “to produce clear, objective stories that give the public and decision-makers the information they need to navigate the heat and emotion of climate and energy debates.” It’s supported with private donations, a la public broadcasting, making insideclimatenews.com an example of the new public media that I’ve written about.
Then, later in the week, a New Jersey court quashed a subpoena issued by local prosecutors to a blogger, holding that she was protected under the state’s media shield law. The blogger writes for an edits the Union County Watchdog Association blog and had written about alleged misuse of government generators during Superstorm Sandy. On April 12, the court held that the blogger was covered as a journalist under the shield law, even though she blogs for free, has an agenda, doesn’t always write well, and uses expletives. (In re January 11, 2013, Subpoena by the Grand Jury of Union County New Jersey, N.J. Super. Ct., No. 13-0001). The shield statute defines “news media” as “newspapers, magazines … or other similar printed, photographic, mechanical or electronic means of disseminating news to the general public.” N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2A:84A-21a(a).
As traditional organs of investigative journalism weaken, these are the new journalists: unpaid (often agenda-driven) bloggers and crowd-funded specialized (often agenda-driven) reporters. It’s right that they should be recognized and supported. It also means we need to change our conception of what journalism means and how it functions in the information ecosystem.