PR pros pitch to journalists every day, but have you considered just what makes someone a journalist? If you had to articulate the traits that make someone a journalist, what would they be?
A new study
by Jonathan Peters, an assistant professor at the University of Dayton and a media lawyer, and Edson C. Tandoc Jr. of the Missouri School of Journalism attempted to answer that question and found it considerably difficult.
The researchers interviewed sources from academic, legal and industrial fields to find commonalities in the various definitions of a journalist’s job. Here’s the definition they ended up with:
A journalist is someone employed to regularly engage in gathering, processing, and disseminating (activities) news and information (output) to serve the public interest (social role).
As it turns out, Peters and Tandoc weren’t particularly pleased with that outcome. The mention of employment “delivers a fatal blow to the people engaging in many new forms of journalism,” they wrote, especially with regard to shield laws. The researchers started the study because of discussions of a possible federal shield law.
Leaving bloggers and unpaid citizen journalists out of the mix would “deter innovation,” they added.
notes that another paper that came out this month suggests it might be more feasible to define “acts of journalism” rather than journalists.
[RELATED: Get advanced brand journalism tips from Mark Ragan and Jim Ylisela.]
Another thing missing from Peters and Tandoc’s definition? Content curation. In a lengthy message to readers this week, the Boston Globe
’s new owner, John Henry, wrote that curation was a major priority:
We will provide what we will call the Globe Standard when it comes to curated links that will ensure our readers do not waste their time when they click on news, reviews, writers, columnists, ecommerce, events, opportunities, and social engagement from any of our platforms.
The definition gets fuzzier.