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Who Is A Journalist?

When I graduated from journalism school I received a diploma but no documentation certifying me as a professional, legitimate journalist. I guess in some people’s eyes I became that once I started working for large established media organizations like the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation or, now, Oregon Public Broadcasting.

In this role I have certain privileges. In Oregon, for example, I can attend executive sessions of city, county or state government. These are meetings which are closed to the general public, but open to members of the media to observe, but not report on. The idea came post-Watergate as a way to guarantee the openness of goverment.

But what if I had chosen to work for an independent blog instead of a big media organization? I’d have the same background, but would I still be considered a journalist? This is a question the Lake Oswego city government is dealing with right now — and one that many places will face as blogging and twittering become increasingly mainstream.

The Lake Oswego city government denied access to a local blogger from Loaded Orygun to their executive session. They said they could not prove he was a legitimate reporter. Now they’re trying to define the term journalist — and they’re hitting roadblocks — and starting conversations — along the way.

In today’s multi-media, twittering, environment, who is a journalist? And what special privileges, if any, should they have beyond those accorded to the general public? Should all bloggers be considered equal? And are they the same as old-school established journalists?


Judie Hammerstad: Mayor of Lake Oswego

Robert Cox: Founder and President of the Media Bloggers Association

Tim Gleason: Dean of the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon

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