A matter of definition

Mr. Martinez, who was interviewed on the premiere airing of Lisacast, was written up in the NYTimes yesterday. You can read the article here.

In essence, it talks about the struggle of a long-time journalist to sustain press credentials. Martinez has hired Norman Siegel, a civil rights lawyer to address what he says is unconstitutional in the way it approves media credentials. Both Mr. Siegel and police reporter Leonard Levit (nypdconfidential.com) are considering federal lawsuits to set things straight. Administration officials (at the police department) say that they denied Mr. Alequin and Mr. Levitt press credentials because “they did not show a need to cover breaking news for a legitimate news organization.

Wow, “a need“. Do I even need to finish this thought? Evidently. Whose need? Who says what is legitimate?

“An individual’s declaration that they are a news-gathering organization does not make it so,” said Paul J. Browne, a Police Department spokesman.

Then what makes it so and what makes it legit? Does anyone else find it interesting that the police dictate this? Um, aren’t the police a little tight with the politicians?

This could all be solved by a simple definition of what a news-gathering organization is. And I think once the power-holders are willing or overthrown to have that discussion, we’ll be a step closer to righteousness. On the list of getting to this new definition, we should be sure to ask about each of the pieces of this term:

 1. NEWS Things that happen that anyone cares about, well that’s everything. How do we decide what people want? We don’t, becuase they do (or will pretty soon). Yesterday I spoke with Dave Winer, inarguably a thought-leader and contributor to this cause, who has been talking for some time about a user-specified news service. That means you get to choose what news you want, you don’t have to page through the paper or a web site for the things you care about and you don’t have to watch weeks and weeks of live coverage of Anna Nicole Smith’s death (if you don’t want to).

2. GATHERING The collection of news and supporting documentation, evidence or support and the practices applied therein are what makes it legitimate. This really brings us back to the neccessity to place guidelines in place for due diligence, admittedly a subjective term (but that is true today also). These are really questions of ethics. Maybe we could incorporate a confidence rating for news where stories which have been checked by multiple sources, for instance, have a higher rating. Things are only more true as time goes by because they get exposure, are challenged, are added to by different perspectives. By this way, we will get more of the true story.

3. ORGANIZATION Even in my scattered behavior and loose-knit daily routine, I am an organization. I have an office, but that shouldn’t even be a point. I have organized thoughts and opinions, organized an audience around me and organized a path for distributing information. We should not place more value on a traditional organization just because, and maybe especially because, it’s been unwritten by someone with money or power and a staff of 10,000.

Let everyone speak (isn’t that written down somewhere important?) and let the readers and viewers decide what news is. As it happens, Mayor Bloomberg will be in San Francisco tomorrow morning at the Common Wealth Club. I wonder if any bloggers will be there.

2 Replies to “A matter of definition”

  1. Journalists will evolve or die, like every other species. Reporting, like governing, is about control of information, and therefore control over what people can say or do. We are so much closer to the bodies which govern us these days. The fact that we don’t vote more put aside, we have more access and opportunity to change the things than ever before.

  2. Lisa: Thanks a lot for your comments about the struggle we are dealing here in New York City with the Bloomberg administration. This is the multibillionare who is thinking of running for president. Yesterday, he was in New Hampshire, tomorow he will be “breaking bread with San Francisco mayor Newson”. He is on the front cover of Times magazine with Arnold (Governator). What will happen to journalists under a Bloomberg administration?

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