Raph al Guul
“Journalism is a profession, blogging is a hobby.” Lazlow Jones
It’s somewhat ironic that the man who uttered these words, Lazlow Jones, having a degree in journalism, is not actually involved in any professional journalism. Sure, he used to host and produce the popular Technofile radio segment back in the day, but he has since turned away from radio. Instead, he is now working for Rockstar Games, and he is known for his involvement in titles such as Grand Theft Auto III, Red Dead Redemption, and Max Payne 3. The closest he comes to journalism these days must be when he goes on promotional tours, being interviewed on the progress of his work at Rockstar. Yes, on the side, he also hosts The Lazlow Show, but if you have heard even just one single episode of the show, be it before or after it was taken off the air and moved to the realm of the internet, you will know that “journalistic” is a very inappropriate adjective to describe it.
Thus, while we might question Jones’ authority on the topic of journalism, it seems to me that his statement bears significance nonetheless. And especially considering that you are currently reading this on a blog that is sometimes referred to as a “student newspaper”, completely disregarding the fact that pretty much none of its content is news and pretty much none of the students are professional journalists (not even mentioning the fact that paper is not involved at all), we should probably think about the difference between journalism and blogging for just a second.
What are journalists, really? What defines them? Their education, employer, or maybe simply the nature of the content they create? Whether or not writers are considered journalists certainly depends largely on the attitude that they are faced with. If we were to remain in the realm of video games, take John Bain, commonly known as Totalbiscuit, for example. His Youtube channel by the name of “TotalHalibut” made host Ed Byrne laugh out loud at the Golden Joysticks Awards 2012 and call for a special award for silly channel names. Yet, in all seriousness, Bain has been consistently labelling himself a “games journalist” (even though most of his publications are not of written nature at all), and it finally sticks; big publishers and games companies are actually providing him with copies of their new releases for journalistic reviews and first impressions. It seems that Totalbiscuit’s opinion, however cynical and subjective it may be, is generally considered to be a journalistic one by himself, game producers, and even the audience at large. Bain, having studied law, however, certainly has not received the journalistic education one might associate with such a profession. And considering that his content is released on Youtube as part of the TGS network (a network that largely consists of “let’s plays”, gaming-related comedy, and walkthroughs), Bain’s employer certainly does not make for a convincing indicator that he might be a journalist. But all of that does not matter, as it seems to be the general attitude towards what Totalbiscuit does that makes him a journalist.
What are bloggers, then? What’s the difference between a blogger and a journalist, and are these mutually exclusive? Some people might say that blogging is simply a form of freestyle-journalism. Obviously, Lazlow Jones would beg to differ. A blogger may choose to write daily entries that all simply consist of made-up heavy metal lyrics. What’s journalistic about that? Take the ZEST, then, where some of the most regularly published content consists of fictional stories. Does that qualify for journalism? I don’t think so. But let’s not forget that this does not mean that blogging could not be journalism, nonetheless. Think about Faces of the Faculty, for instance. This short interview format requires journalistic efforts on part of the conductor and it certainly provides more than simple entertainment; it also offers information relevant to the key demographic of the ZEST. I am sure authors of features such as Faces of the Faculty would be quite offended if you called them “bloggers”. On the other hand, it would be unfitting to call our short stories “journalism”.
On the ZEST, journalism and blogging certainly are not mutually exclusive and the lines can be somewhat blurry at times (as are the definitions of the terms, which is why I chose not to cite Merriam-Webster on this one). However, considering that our contributors are not professional journalists, it seems that journalism, like blogging, can be a hobby, too. And, on a side note and although that may not be the case for the ZEST, blogging can be a profession, as well; believe it or not. To be fair, what Jones was after when making his statement was that a blogger’s article should not be considered as relevant or trustworthy as that of a journalist. But, considering that we don’t even quite know what a journalist is and why certain authors are “only” considered bloggers, can we actually justify this attitude? There are enough opinionated journalists (John Bain included) that are just as subjective as some of the most biased bloggers out there. And isn’t one of the major issues that of acknowledging that, while one might have an opinion, it might not stand beyond all doubt, an issue that bloggers and journalists alike frequently struggle with? So, what is the ZEST? A journalistic blog? An aspiring newspaper? And what do our readers come here for? In search for journalism, news, entertainment, blogging? I personally felt like the ZEST had an identity crisis from the very beginning – and that was beneficial to the variety of content that was consequently accepted by our editors. But I can’t help but wonder about its place between professional journalism and casual blogging. But hey, you just read this. Care to fill me in on what’s going on here?