We used to call them articles

They’re called blog posts now. And they’re protected by the First Amendment (as of a couple days ago, I think).

Not that long ago, we had what were called journalists, who worked with words and publishers (news organizations or magazines) and looked a lot like this:

Old-style journalist, with a hard-fisted style who smoke a lot of cigarettes and drank a lot scotch and is no longer with us.

Old-time journalist, with a hard-fisted style who smoked a lot of cigarettes and drank a lot of scotch and is no longer with us.

And journalists were paid by their employers to show up and ask embarrassing questions, such as “What happened to the $500 thousand in the playground fund, Mrs. Kineally?”  And then you’d get on the phone, touching base with your editor, as was standard procedure, and the inevitable question would come: “How do you spell that?” And the ready answer: “K-I-N-E-A-L-L-Y.”

Meanwhile, Mrs. Kineally was having a stroke because the town mayor had just called her out publicly at a municipal meeting. And she still had billboards stuck in her yard advocating for the candidate from the other party. But at least you knew you’d get her name spelled right.

The fact that people continue to care about the Mrs. Kineally’s of the world bodes well for the future of local news writing, and there seem to be many organizations that combine Web and local print news in a hybrid way that appears to work. And journalists are employed. But most feature writing and criticism writing have gone over to blogs, so pieces such as my article on the Marshalton Inn Triathlon or a Chester County (PA) dairy farm likely will never see a printed page. Again.

Dairy farms—even ones visited by Presidents—are no longer worth the paper they're printed on.

Dairy farms—even ones visited by Presidents—are no longer worth the paper they’re printed on.

Here’s where it gets tricky. Journalists are trained to be journalists. They are familiar with the First Amendment—in the way it liberates and constrains at the same time. There is freedom; there is also responsibility. They go to work every day with this document in mind:

The very first amendment, which informs one of the highest possible callings in a free society.

The very first amendment, which informs one of the highest possible callings in a free society.

They are issued press passes. I’ll never forget how I felt the moment I discovered that Matt Drudge had been issued a press pass for the first time. I knew that the field had changed forever. I also knew how press passes could be the weakest link in presidential security: I saw an activist get within 100 feet of George W. Bush, because she apparently had a press pass. I saw her in the press room a few minutes before, helping herself to coffee and a Danish. Then she was next to me in the auditorium, standing and screaming at the top of her lungs.

Then it hit me: I also was within 100 feet of George W. Bush. What made me so special?

I was a journalist.

But, ultimately, who’s to say that she, or Matt Drudge, was not a journalist?

And so, in my typically oblique way (this is, after all, a blog post), this so-called article is about Edward Snowden. This guy:

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, considered either a traitor or a whistleblower.

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, considered either a traitor or a whistleblower.

Snowden may well become the first person to successfully transition from traitor to whistleblower. Even as Matt Drudge was issued a press pass, this guy, in my mind, has gone from traitor to question mark. And I’m not sure if that’s a calculated transition on his part, or a function of my own evolution on the subject matter.

I just wish I could write the article. For me, his underlying motives, at the very beginning of his weird journey, are key. And I would be very interested in how he made the moral decision—or if he made a moral decision—about the information to which he had access, and the basis he believes underlies his subsequent actions.

Yeah. That’s going to be some article. Can’t wait to read it. Because all I can do right now is blog about it.

KJC dingbat-thumbnail

Postscript: Added 20 Sept 2016: This clip from The Humanist Report accurately reflects my current opinion on the topic:

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About Keith Croes

Nice to meet you. Thanks for dropping by.

Posted on January 22, 2014, in Cultural observations, Journalism, Opinion, Politics and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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