I Am Not A Journalist

Last Friday I used twitter to direct you to a site that told a compelling story.

my bottles up web traffic results

And of course there was controversy. Then there was a comment that has had me reevaluating my role in social media.

john Fernandez commentAnd then we exchanged some emails, the details of which are not necessarily relevant. John is no stranger to blogging, nor to social media and the speed of which anyone can share information. I find it incredibly depressing that there are so many times that bloggers are called into question, and ultimately cannot adequately stand behind their words. Please note, I’m not saying that this is the case with Nicole White. It does make me pause and rethink my own space.

Twitter: I’ve already divided my twitter stream into two separate accounts. One is noisy, filled with links, conversations, misspellings and general silliness. I’ve also established @JessReviews where I review a product a day but there is no discussion. Somehow this felt like my own separation of Church and State. I’m not suggesting it for anyone, but I like that it’s clean, like a sidebar. It felt right, and it still does.

Blogging: I’ve always felt like my disclaimer was good. Is it missing something? I’m not a news source, and I don’t really expect to be. I’m not a journalist. I’m a mom and a wife, I’m a daughter and tech nerd. I don’t mean like a little nerdy either, I mean, I am absolutely devastated that my kids’ school isn’t falling all over itself to take advantage of Wolfram Alpha Homework Day. I remember writing IF THEN programs for fun after school… when I was eight. I love technology, there I said it. I love technology so much I want to marry it <— and I prove that I am, in fact, a Mommy Blogger. [shaddup leave me alone]

Because of John, I’m sitting and thinking about why I blog. A blog is a Web Log. People always ask me what I blog about. I tell them I’m a Mommy Blogger. What is my obligation? I don’t want to be a reporter or a journalist. I’m a Mom, I can’t see the world through anyone’s lens but my own. I don’t have any interest in presenting you with two sides to every story, this is straight editorial. On the rare occasion I give facts, breaking news or commentary on studies, I do direct you to a news source.

Later today I’ll be resurrecting my newsletter, in an attempt to further separate my topics.

What are the standards for bloggers? There was one attempt to create a standard for bloggers, but it quickly became a laughingstock outside it’s own echo chamber. The idea of trying to regulate bloggers is laughable.

I don’t have any hard and fast answers, but I can offer you my truths.

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Comments 21

  1. I think he made a dick comment. You posted Nic’s blog and the TSA video and said you weren’t judging any of it. I think that’s more un-biased than most “real” news sources. Don’t re-evaluate your role. You do what you do, and you are clear about it. End of story.

    1. It *was* a dick comment, but it wasn’t targeted at Jessica. The problem is that Jessica has great social capital. She tweeted it, I saw it, I read it. Why? Because I trust her. I was livid at the TSA for being total jerks, wasting taxpayer money to frighten a mom and her kid who were no threat to anyone’s security. Almost 300 other people went to that post directly from Jessica’s tweet, probably for similar reasons, and probably with similar results.

      Now the story turns out to be… well… problematic. Does that reflect badly upon Jessica? She was (rightfully) moved by a story that now turns out to not be as clear as it seemed. Are people now going to be less trusting of things Jessica links to? (I hope not.) Does Jessica now have to do tons of vetting on every story she shares while worrying that 1) if it gets big and 2) turns out to have something innacurate, whether intentionally or not, it will reflect badly on her? (Again, I hope not.)

      It’s just a mess. I don’t have the answers, but I’d hope there’s something better. I’d like to think it’s with slightly more careful posting, but one of the reasons a lot of these blogs are so engaging is the fact that they are truly authentic and real-time. I’d hate to lose that.

  2. I am a mommy blogger too–I blog about my family and general observations. I am not a journalist either. I am not producing a documentary about my family and I hope to god that if I ever get the kind of page views that you cite in your posts, it’s because people think I’m funny and not because any drama in my life warranted it.

    This is where I stand:

    If someone wants to blog about their family- fine.
    Some exaggeration for effect- gotcha.
    A diatribe about the state of the world-fantastic.

    But outright lies that emotionally manipulate people? This I don’t understand. At all. And I’m ok with that.

  3. this whole tsa/nic thing is why blogging is falling apart at its seams.
    i am a mommy blogger. i blog about more than just being a mommy. i blog about being a woman, a human, a blogger…pretty much everything.
    and i am not a journalist. i’d like to go back to school and take some classes on journalism though.
    but still.
    blogging wasn’t like this a couple of years ago.
    it’s a shame.

    1. Post
      Author
          1. back when it was blogcatalog and cre8buzz. or just flat out google searches that led you to blogs via child cold symptoms or ache in the spine.
            but in reality. many bloggers egos have become so inflated and they think that they can get away with anything.
            which leads me to repeat something i always find myself saying…
            some of these people should get over themselves.

  4. Jessica,

    The one thing I’d hate to result from my post is *less* participation in social media, especially by you. There is this pervasive fear that the “real world” (whatever that means) doesn’t trust the online world. A lot of it is brick-and-mortar companies and old dinosaur journalists portraying the Internet as this anonymous, unreliable Wild West where you can’t trust anyone. The problem is, there’s a point there, even if the point itself is massively overblown.

    As someone who has divided Twitter streams, and has a Disclosure link at the top of your blog, you’re well ahead of the curve on this. You’re aware of your power (Motrin jumps to mind as a good example, though there are others), and you’re careful about it. Full credit and praise for that, along with everything else you do with your very engaging and interesting blog (this coming from someone who is neither a mommy nor writer).

    The challenge is – with tens, or maybe hundreds of millions of blogs out there, any one post can have huge implications. What are any blogger’s responsibilities, for example, even if a post itself was told from a completely truthful (if one-sided) point of view? Nicole had over 5,000 views just from bit.ly – I’m sure that her post got 10,000 or more views when all was said and done. Unfortunately, I don’t think the TSA blog or her followup got that type of coverage. (Not to bash blogs unfairly on this one, newspaper retractions and corrections are never as well-promoted as the erroneous stories are, so this is a centuries-old problem.)

    The new FCC regulations only address a slim use case, and I don’t think they do a good job anyway. Just… there’s got to be something better. You’re doing (more than) enough. Problem is, you’re the exception, not the rule.

  5. I am surprised you care this much . . . if you know your integrity is intact and that you did nothing unethical by any standards, who the *bleep* cares what others think about you or your integrity. And breaking your blogging posts down into different groups just seems like an attempt to conform . . . and I never took you for a conformist. At all.

  6. I have a BA in Journalism. I was Editor-In-Chief of both my high school and college newspapers and have written professionally for a variety of publications. I present that because there are a lot of people like myself who are blogging on a regular basis.

    We have the training and the background to cover these types of stories. My background in Journalism is part of why these giveways and sponsored posts give me the willies. I haven’t found a good way to reconcile all that.

    But that is neither here nor there. There are a few issues here.

    1) What kind of responsibilities do bloggers have? If we act as professional journalists we slow down our response and reaction. We do our homework. Emails and telephone calls to sources to confirm information prior to publication.

    2) What responsibilities do the readers have? Shouldn’t they have some accountability in this. Don’t we teach our children to engage in logical thought and critical analysis of what is fed to them. Don’t we say don’t believe everything you hear.

    I don’t want to make this a ridiculously long comment, but I think that the answer is somewhere in between. Bloggers should take some care in what they blog about but at the same time readers need to think.

    Something about this TSA/Blogger story stinks. It doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t completely believe either side, but I don’t expect to find the truth in a blog. It might happen.It could happen, but it is not my only news source.

    To make a long story longer most bloggers are never going to spend a lot of time trying to verify information. They are not going to make telephone calls and exchange email to confirm the validity of claims.

    We can hope that they do their best to try to be honest and somewhat balanced, but something you do as a hobby tends not to carry the same weight as something that puts food on the table.

  7. Oh gosh—it’s shit like this that makes me want quit. Look at this guys response above. WHAT???? Who cares what training and back ground you have, Jess? It’s called a hobby. You aren’t turning the world on it’s axis. Fox news won’t crash because a few Mommy Bloggers get opinions about the TSA, Motrin, Walmart, etc. Good for you that you cause a stir, if only for people to open their eyes. If you wanted to be a journalist, you could. If you wanted to sit and sling shit, you could.

    Ugh…whatev.

    1. Oh gosh—it’s shit like this that makes me want quit

      So quit. Stop talking about and quit. The beauty of blogging is that we can all talk. You don’t like to read, don’t read, don’t think. It is all fun or it is not.

  8. You directed people to a story that compelled you. I was directed to the story by another blogger. I felt bad for the woman, but didn’t get emotionally involved. It saddened me to find out it wasn’t true (most likely), but I don’t blame the blog that sent me (that also posted a follow-up) or anyone else.
    However, I knew this shitstorm was coming. I knew that it’d become another story about the credibility of blogs. I always have to discern the information I read online. I always feel an obligation to cite sources or to state when something’s an opinion. We should all engage in critical thinking. It shouldn’t have to be an either/or situation. I am not responsible for what other bloggers do. Nor are you.

  9. At the same time look at the balloon boy hoax, that was mainstream media outlets all across the country that ran with that story. It’s not the first time that false news reports have happened by media outlets. It’s not just blogging where this stuff happens, it’s everywhere in media. The only thing each blogger can do is to conduct herself/himself with professional ethics. Also, you don’t need to go to school to know lying or hiding or manipulating the truth is wrong.

  10. I agree with you. You are not a journalist. Some bloggers are but most are not. I recently had a similar conversation with a “traditional” journalist. When questioned, I responded that I don’t consider myself a journalist. I write. I report on some things. (I even fact check.) However, the main reason that I don’t consider myself/most bloggers as journalists is that there is no expectation of objectivity when it comes to reading most blogs. It’s the bloggers’ opinion and the majority of readers take it as such – with a grain of salt.

    (Don’t even get me started on journalistic objectivity though. That’s also a joke. At least, I expect journalists to be fair though. I have no such similar expectations of bloggers.)

  11. You did nothing wrong. Our integrity is the most valuable thing we as individuals own, and only we can give it away. In our fast paced world, this kind of thing happens every day,with every form of communication. 100% accuracy is unheard of. Unfortunately this incident gives lots of ammo to those who want to cast aspersions on bloggers as a group- which we are not! Most sadly to me, I believe this blogger probably has a true story she chose not to tell, because grey areas aren’t as easy, high drama or attractive.

  12. Is what you did worse than the “real” journalists who were all over the Balloon Boy story last week?

    Helping Dr. Phil beat the dead horse that should be the mommy wars should be more of an issue than the fact that because of you a mommy blogger got called on her embellished ranting.

  13. Quite frankly, we should all be able to tell for ourselves that Jessica is not a journalist (even if she was not a very thorough person with full “disclosure” posted). Did anyone actually *think* Jessica had verified the TSA-baby-snatch story through independent sources? I certainly didn’t, so I was hardly shocked when the story came up untrue (and let’s face it, anyone judging from only what’s been presented online *has* to conclude the story is untrue).

    It’s not a big deal that a blog post isn’t true. Some people are liars. Some people are crazy. Some people write fiction. People make statements that are factually untrue all the time. It’s not a problem that an acquaintance passes along untrue stories either. Most of us are, by nature, trusting. We hear something interesting, we pass it along.

    But professional journalists are supposed to hold to a much higher standard. I think what’s really “muddying the waters” is not lay people acting kind of like journalists. I mean, my neighbor is good at coming up with remedies for minor aches, pains and injuries. I don’t get confused and think she’s a doctor.

    BUT actual doctors are also not hanging out on my lawn, offering me beer and pretending to be neighbors just offering advice. Whereas people who call themselves “journalists” and work for companies claiming to be “news organizations” are obsessing over entertainment value, presenting wild speculation as fact, reporting undeveloped stories without checking sources, etc.

    At some point, it does get hard to tell the difference. And I coach bright, advanced 8th graders in research/writing projects. You think *we* are bad at sussing out fact from fiction online? They are *dreadful* at it. Dreadful.

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