I was out at Target the other day when I ran into a familiar face pushing a shopping cart full of Reynolds Wrap through the grocery section. It was Professor William G. Krieppi, Associate Professor of Rhetoric at Hennepin Technical College’s School of Geology.
It went something like this.
KRIEPPI: (Seeing me) Hey, Merg! Brian Lambert at the Minnpost sure pwn3ed you?
ME: Hm. I always wondered how one pronounced “Pwn3d”. Otherwise – and I know I’ll regret asking you this – what are you talking about?
KRIEPPI: He called you out on your “citizen journalist” nonsense! In the MinnPost!
ME: Well, I’m glad to see they have such important stuff to cover.
KRIEPPI: Check it out!
ME: Jeez, it’s only Lambert. I’ve got stuff I gotta do.
KRIEPPI: You are clearly melting down. Why do you hate children?
ME: Oh, what the hell. (Types quickly on IPhone) (sotto voce) If I say “That’s a fascinating point”, will you go away? (Normal tone of voice) OK, here it is:
…you might want to reader conservative blogger Gary Gross’s take on [whatever Lambo was writing about]. It concludes with this semi-classic threat: “What this means is that Gov. Dayton’s words, Pat Kessler’s words and other biased media’s words didn’t have a hint of truth to them. It’s worth noting that ABM didn’t hesitate in using them in their statewide smear campaign against GOP candidates. It’s time for Mr. Sommerhauser and other reporters to blister Alida Messinger, Gov. Dayton and the Twin Cities media for telling the whoppers that they told. If he won’t, citizen journalists like Mitch Berg and myself will expose the DFL for the corrupt political party it is.” Hey, guys, can I see your “citizen journalist” badges?
KRIEPPI: hahahahaahahahaaahaahahahahaahahaahahahaaahaaha (shallow breath) )hahahaahahaahahahaaahaahahahahaahahaahahahaaahaahahahahaaha!!!
KRIEPPI: So where’s your badge, Merg?
ME: I don’t have one. But then, I used to work as a reporter, and I didn’t have a “badge” back then, either. Why don’t you ask Lambert to see his “badge”?
KRIEPPI: He is teh real journalist! What teh hcek is a “citizen journalist”?
ME: (Groaning wearily) I don’t much care for the term “citizen journalist”, and I never have.. And for that matter, the term “Journalist”, either. Establishment “journalists” wrap themselves in the term to try to give themselves a veneer of non-existant “objectivity”. The problem is, left-leaning establishment journos from the NYTimes down to the MinnPost, along with the Administraiton, are trying to define the term such that only “people who get paid by institutional media outlets” qualify as “journalists”, which is cynical and stupid, but certainly self-serving.
KRIEPPI: Quit equivocating! He pwn3d you! Maybe even pwn4d you! He showed that you are nothing but a partisan hack!
ME: Huh. So let’s recap, here; you’re referring to the “objectivity” and/or “hackery” of a guy who writes utterly-unveiled opinion pieces for a glorified blog, and has appeared for years on the radio as an expressly, even stridently-partisan commentator…
KRIEPPI: Yes! Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!
ME: …who interrupted his “non-partisan” “media” career for a gig as then-Senator Mark Dayton’s press secretary?
KRIEPPI: …Hahahahahahahahahaahhahahahaaaahahaaahaahah… (maniacal laughter slowly grinds to a halt).
ME: Who’s spent most of his career as a DFL stenographer and snark-bot, but who will nonetheless dance up and down and say “You’re not a real journalist” because it’s a whole lot easier than explaining why a group of plutocrats and unions have basically bought the governorship and legislature with his blog’s blessing.
KRIEPPI: (stands, blank-faced)
ME: Hey, have a great day, Professor!
(I walk away as KRIEPPI slowly opens a carton of Reynolds Wrap and starts to wrap it around his head)
Like I said, i don’t much care for the term “citizen journalist”. Partly because it’s stilted and anachronistic, but mostly because In the modern sense of the term, it’s a little like saying “citizen carpenter”. There’s no real barrier of entry to picking up a hammer and a saw – or a keyboard.
Oh, “professional” journos like to act like Journalism is a higher calling, like a secular monastic order. Listen to Garfield and Gladstone doing “On The Media” on NPR sometime (somebody has to, right?); Krista Tippett’s “On Being” isn’t as pompous, solemn and brow-furrowed. And it makes sense; “professional” journalists devote a lot of time to learning the craft, and years and decades practicing it – and usually spend their time covering city council meetings and interviewing high school athletes and boutique owners. Of course they’ll try to give it some higher meaning!
But journalism is not a monastic calling. It’s certainly not a profession. It’s a craft, not much different than carpentry or CNC machining or cooking a good steak. If I need a complicated metal part, I call a machinist. If I want to know what happened in a city council meeting, or what was up with that car crash or house surrounded by police tape, and I’m not able or interested in asking the questions myself, I go to a “journalist”. And if you want to know what’s really going on with charter schools, I go to someone who covers education because it’s their passion and interest and whose coverage of the issue engages me; it might be a reporter for an institutional media outlet, but it’ll more likely be Matt Abe and Speed Gibson, because they’re just plain better at it.
Am I a reporter? Not normally. I do some reporting – I’ve eaten the rest of the media’s lunch on a few stories over the years, and I’ll do it again – but doing “reporting” right takes time. I have a day job, so I usually stick with analysis, or just plain opinion. Sort of like a newspaper columnist, only without the salary.
So I don’t have a badge. Either does Lambert. He gets paid to snark and occasionally report. I don’t. He does it eight hours a day or so. I do it for about 90 minutes.
Other than that, there’s not much difference, really. Unless you start talking radio.
Pin that to your shirt.