UST, the Philippine’s oldest university that has produced many of the country’s good journalists, is posing questions that touch at the core of how we define a journalist. Here are some of my ramblings.
Who is a journalist?
If we go by the University of Sto. Tomas’ (UST) statement against an article that had questioned the doctoral degree it had conferred to Chief Justice Renato Corona, then Marites Vitug, a multi-awarded journalist behind the respected Newsbreak group, is not.
UST’s argument is simple: Though the article was reprinted by the Inquirer, the Philippines’ leading broadsheet, it was originally a blog post on a new website.
So UST asked: “Does anyone claiming to be an online journalist (sic) given the same attention as one coming from the mainstream press?”
In a statement quoted in another Inquirer article, the UST further asked: “Who challenged Miss Vitug’s article before it went online so as to establish its accuracy, objectivity and fairness? Why was there no prior disclosure made? What gate-keeping measures does online journalism practice?”
These arguments by the country’s oldest university rest on the old assumption that journalists are identified by their medium. This no longer makes sense.
Journalists are now expected to disseminate news in all possible platforms: print, broadcast, online, and even through mobile phones. A journalist who reports on TV, tweets about events he is covering, and then writes an online version clearly cannot be tied to just one medium.
Yes, numerous blogs lack the same level of gatekeeping that mainstream news organizations practice, but equating being online and lacking gatekeeping is haphazard. The medium used to limit the shape and processes an output can take. This no longer holds true.
That Vitug posted her article on a new website does not make her less of a journalist than she once was when Newsbreak took the form of a magazine. A journalist is better defined by what he or she does, rather than by his or her platform for dissemination.
The mainstream-versus-new journalism is a false dichotomy. Technology has helped journalism reach more people and reach them quickly, wherever they may be.
But technology is not journalism.
It seems that what really bothered UST is that the Inquirer—a mainstream press by its standards—carried Vitug’s article as its banner story.
But in questioning the integrity of Vitug’s new website Rappler, UST has also unwittingly conferred Rappler’s “online journalists” mainstream status and attention any new site will be very happy with.