A Heated Debate About Bloggers As Journalists

SAN FRANCISCO - OCTOBER 30:  Newspapers are se...

What season that has now come to a close. Relaxing and partying on was the name of the game. Funny, but the harder you work the more you tend to enjoy the breaks. 2009 was indeed a very hard year of work, hardly any holiday time – I think we had four days this year - So this Christmas and New Year was especially appreciated for getting out of work mode and into the swing of celebration on both religious and secular fronts.

I have to say with all that went on there was just one thing that has stuck in my mind during this period. It was a heated debate with a professional Bulgarian journalist who I met. He was a friend of a friend and we were acquainted a few days after Christmas. He is now middle aged and has been a journalist since he was 18 years old straight from college. He works for a local newspaper writing about Yambol topics including a fair range of subject from sport to current affair and even recipes. Apart from a few words of English he was from the old school of Bulgarians who dabbled in a bit of Russian for a second language.

It all began when this tall well built, unshaven looking Bulgarian asked what I do in Bulgaria, he was under the assumption like most that I had a hefty pension and was here to party on till death. It was a bit of a shock when I said that I work for a living here. He was even more shocked when I told him that for a living here I work in a boiler factory during the day and have many blogs writing in the evening and at weekends to make ends meet.

Most Bulgarians I meet are cold to start with and warm up only after a few minutes of talking, it was the other way around with this chap. It seemed that once he had found that I write about Yambol and Bulgaria and publish the work I write, including my book that was published just over a year ago, he looked at me as competition and started putting bloggers down. He considered bloggers an untalented group of people who give journalists a bad name as they consider themselves as journalists many without any writing background, training or experience. I explained that in the main blogger write for a hobby and to pick up a little earning if they can to cover their costs and there was nothing wrong in that. He begged to differ saying that blogging as a hobby isn’t wrong, but the reams of junk they write shouldn’t be allowed to be published as 99% of it is substandard!

He was getting really uptight about it and the conversation took a turn to arguing about the freedom to express yourself in writing no matter what level you are at. My best for of defence here was to attack and not try and justify nothing wrong with my writing being published even if it isn’t up to professional standards, (whatever that means!) I started asking the questions now. Having already known he left school at 18, he only had the normal diploma of serving his time in school, something equivalent of a couple of ‘A’ levels. A asked what journalist training he had since leaving school. He avoided the question by saying that he had been writing for newspapers for 30 years now and was a maestro of his trade. I attacked again by saying “So you haven’t had any formal training or any qualification as a journalist!” Again he changed the subject moving on to mention the stories he had covered over the years including an interview with the President a few years ago.

We continued to debate fiercely the question on whether blogger could call themselves ‘journalists’. I argued the case that with an Honours Degree and a couple of Post Graduate Qualifications as well as many years experience teaching student of all ages as well as having my book published (and many having been sold) I was actually far more qualified to be a journalist than he was. (You could tell that chap was getting up my nose a bit). Bulgarians don’t like it up them you know (From Mr Jones in Dad’s Army if you were wondering). His loudness suddenly became subdued at this point and perhaps a degree of respect come out once he had found that working in a boiler factory was in no way commensurate to my educational background.

Our talking was back to talking rather than shouting (although shouting is still a normal way of talking here in debate). We agreed to differ substantially over the question: ‘Should bloggers should be allowed to call themselves journalists?’ He wouldn't even consider the tag ‘amateur journalists. In fact I recall him saying that all blogger should be shot with the bad writing they come out with and publish. It was just as well I didn't mention that I was dyslexic as I'm sure that this would have brewed up another heated debate on whether dyslexics should be allowed to write - And I would have ended up punching the guy!

Well, the evening was quite memorable and like I said sticks in my mind more than any thing else that went on over the last two weeks. I think that this ‘journalist’ has a closed mind and from what I gathered about his opinions I don’t think I would be tempted to read his presumably ‘closed minded’ articles, unless it is a recipe perhaps.

What do you think? Do you feel that bloggers are journalists? I for one read many blogs everyday and in the main it is journalism. By definition a journalist is a person who either is “someone whose occupation is journalism,” which accounts for the Bulgarian newspaper journalist I met, or, “someone who keeps a journal” and this of course meets the vast majority of blogger vocations.

Image by Getty Images via Daylife
HAPPY NEW YEAR!