Jeff Jarvis is wrong when he says “any witness can perform an act of journalism”. Mostly.

Lots of good stuff in Jeff Jarvis’ post on myths about the Internet that you hear from “nay-sayers” in Once and for all”. But there’s also this bit, which I have to take issue with:

Bloggers aren’t journalists. True and false. The Pew Internet & American Life survey says only a third of bloggers consider what they do journalism. But today any witness can perform an act of journalism, giving us more eyes on society – which journalists should celebrate.” [My italics added]

Saying that “any witness can perform an act of journalism” is rather like saying “any trumpeter can play a guitar”. It’s conflating “doing music” with “playing a particular instrument” – or, in the above case “giving an accurate first-hand report” with “doing journalism”.

As I’ve argued before, journalism is a process, not a product. It means researching, multiple sources, and revealing something which wasn’t revealed before. It’s not something that is exclusive to those calling themselves “journalists”, but neither is it something which any witness to events can perform simply by giving an accurate account of what they saw.

One thing that history teaches us is that eyewitness accounts often conflict, and the job of a journalist is to dig deep enough to corroborate or refute some of those eyewitness accounts. While any witness can contribute to an act of journalism, unless they do a lot more, they’re not themselves doing journalism.