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Smug Alert now in effect for all parts of Old Media: Bloggers who are amateur journalists can displace journalists who are amateur topic experts 6/26/07

Posted by Steve Boriss in Amateur, Professionalism.

It is becoming fashionable in some circles to dismiss blogging and other user-generated content as the work of mere “amateurs” that threatens the vital information we now receive from professional journalists. This concept got a boost from a book released earlier this month, “The Cult of the Amateur” by Andrew Keen, who is interviewed by Business Week here.

But before we throw the “A-word” around, let’s think a little bit about who the amateurs are, accepting for the moment the arguable assumption that journalism is a true profession. Most who write for Old Media are professional journalists, but amateurs in the topics they write about. By contrast, most of the leading, elite bloggers are experts in their specialized topic areas, but amateurs in journalism. Is the public really better off reading amateur-grade information from journalists rather than professional-grade information from non-journalists? More to the point, will they prefer it?

Fortunately, there are simple precautions journalists can take to avoid fatal cases of smug — pick a topic area and become an expert in it. Better yet, become a global expert.


1. Tim - 6/27/07

On this issue, the old media hides behind the guise of objectivity, but never breath a word about their inexperience on any given topic. Apparently, the argument is that objectivity is highest on the priority list whereas knowing something about that which you write is somehow of lesser value. Old media points to the inherent bias or slant of industry insiders (pick one) writing on a topic related to their respective field. I suppose there is a point in this, however, being a businessman myself who happened to be schooled in journalism as a younger man, I would much prefer the insights provided by industry insiders who may not be able to write as well as a professional journalist, to a professional journalist who knows little about the topic their writing on. My position is to leave it to the consumer to weed out the biases and slants and come to their own conclusions.

2. Adam - 7/16/07

This has been a longstanding gripe of mine–why on Earth is everyone so in a tizzy about “amateur writers” when journalism is nothing but a pack of amateurs writing on subjects they are uneducated in?

3. Steve Boriss - 7/16/07

Adam — that was a well-reasoned and well-written post on your blog. I think we are entering an age where the Internet will be revealing that much of what we have learned about journalism simply isn’t true. We also seem to be entering an era where the public will decide who the experts are in a free market-style meritocracy.

4. Adam - 7/16/07

Thanks, and I have to agree. I believe that as people have more and more sources to choose from, they will continually raise their standards as to what is worth their time–after all, as time becomes increasingly tiny compared to how much stuff there is to spend it on, people will have to become more careful about how they spend it.

Anyway, good to see someone who shares my optimism on these matters.

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7. Rise of the Amatuer, The Debate Continues « DigiDave - Journalism is a Process, Not a Product - 4/1/09

[…] with one sour spot about Keen’s book. Why is everyone an amateur? At the Future of News  Steve Boriss put it best:  Most who write for Old Media are professional journalists, but amateurs in the topics they […]

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