Apple is suing a few bloggers over their publication of leaked information. Apple wants to know the leak. The bloggers are claiming that a reporter doesn't have to reveal his sources- and the judge said that they're not reporters.
Here's a sticky wicket. After all, how do we draw the line between journalists and everyone else, if anyone with a blog can be a journalist? Do we draw the line when there's a certain level of content, or readership? When someone researches content for their blog? When the blog gets picked up by a news outlet?
So the next question is this- do we have to? If we're into line drawing, I think most people would come down squarely on the side of "Bloggers aren't journalists." Suddenly, a limited field is opened up, and anyone can do it. Of course, anyone, with the skill and interest, can be a journalist. You'll notice that my blog is hardly a journalistic source. I regurgitate interesting news, and throw some editorial comments in. I hardly "cover" an event. But let's ask this- what makes a journalist a journalist? In general, it's credibility. People are willing to believe a journalists. So if someone, discusses current events, and does so in a fashion that grants them credibility among an audience, they're on their way to journalism. There's other components, but this is the one I want to focus on.
There's another question here. Is the credibility of a well-written blog increasing faster than the credibility of "old-media" is dropping? I'm going to, carefully, say "Yes". Because, aside from a few scandals, the news the major outlets reports is fairly accurate, if slanted.
No, the reason that people are moving away from "old-media" outlets is the filter on the news stories, which is typified by the Daily Show's recent "coverage" of the Martha Stewart release, a clear parody of what many news outlets are doing. The major media covers crap. They pick one headline, and fluff it up with filler, and the reason for this is that they do it for one reason- money, and to get money, they need either circulation (for print) or ratings. It amounts to the same thing.
Now here's the issue. The news must then be acceptable to the largest audience. The reading level can't be to difficult. The issues discussed have to be covered in a simplified matter, and whatever is being covered has to draw the audience. This is why porn periodicals are going to be a big seller for the rest of eternity.
Blogs are freed of this constraint. A blogger covers the news that interests them, and that in turn draws people who are interested in that. Sites like Groklaw can cover the issues in whatever depth they're inclined, and as opposed to print or television, wherin the mass audience must be reached to justify the costs of production- the costs for a blog are relatively nil. Blogs that do the opposite of news outlets prosper, and can even be profitable, because they target a niche, not in spite of.
I've moved away from my original point. Are bloggers journalists? Some of them most certainly are, in the same way anyone with a local kinkos can be a journalist. What matters is recognition, which bloggers earn by well written coverage, while journalists get it via the bottom line of their coverage- how much revenue it generates. So the fact of the matter is this- any jouranlistic protections, like confidentiality of sources, should be guaranteed to anyone who publishes a work. But that is not to say that all bloggers are journalists- only the cream-of-the-crop, the ones who truly do write compelling and accurate, in-depth coverage are deserving of the access privleges, like the White House Press Corps.
I think that the problems with modern journalism will eventually plague online media. People are realizing you can profit from a blog, and that it takes hits to do that. And while right now, the blog-readership is shockingly erudite and educated, it won't always be that way. Like every "cool new thing", it too will be overrun by the "posers", and some will cry, "but we were here first!" and be washed away like every cultural revolution in a torrent of dollars.
But there's some good news. Because anyone can do it, anyone will do it. And for every dozen money grubbing hacks, there will be one worthwhile alternative. As filtering and searching and social networking progress, more and more, we'll be able to find the content we want and need.
Now, to round this out, the White House press corps has a blogger, to be distinguished because he's the first blog oriented journalist, not the first journalist with a blog.