Oct 032010

#groggate burns on, with occasional flare-ups, but also some insightful analysis, like this piece by Shalailah Medhora.

She reiterates the bones of the weeks events, but makes this fascinating observation, which neither side of the discussion has yet addressed in any cogent manner.

Whether or not you think Massola and The Australian were right in publishing the article, the point remains that the #grogsgamut incident brings up complex and enduring questions about the role of the media in this new-fangled digital age.
With the risk of sounding like a navel-gazer, the divide between established media and citizen journalists is narrowing at an alarming pace. A long, hard look at the role of journalists in such an environment is long overdue.
As more and more journalists (this one included) source talent, public opinion and story ideas from Twitter and Facebook, how do you define where your professional identity and personal one end? And does professional objectivity extend to social media if you’re not claiming to be a representative of your employer in your online musings?
These kinds of questions won’t go away. In fact, they’re likely to increase in frequency. Incidents like #grogsgate simply bring these issues into the fore.

“how do you define where your professional identity and personal one end?” I’d also like to add in, this one:

“do social media commentators automatically need to adopt an as-yet unwritten set of ‘professional ethics’ to be accepted by the so-called professionals?” Further, do we, the average Joe/Joeline blogger/tweeter/comment-box-inhabitant actually need to? I think it’s accepted that if you’re employed by a major media outlet, appear on television, radio or have your name attached as a ‘by-line’ to a newspaper piece, then you’re a member of the so-called ‘professionals’. But does an op-ed make you a journalist? Probably no more than standing in a garage makes you a car. So, what makes a ‘journalist’? A uni degree? A payslip marked ‘News Limited’, ‘Fairfax’ or ‘ABC’? Or is it that you have your mug and name appearing in online media-sponsored internet spaces where you can claim your employer may not agree with your opinions, but endorses your right to express them?

Does a ‘journalist’ remain a ‘journalist’, or dare I go further and add the nominative, ‘professional’ when they enter the supposedly non-professional, non-journalistic online domain of the great unwashed social commentary? When James Massola ‘outed’ Greg Jericho, was he acting as a ‘professional’ and therefore governed by a set of ethics peculiar that so-called profession, or was he simply acting as one of the great unwashed with an axe to grind (because that’s how it comes across to the great unwashed) while hiding behind his veneer he calls ‘journalist’?

When Matthew Franklin, Latika Bourke, Geoffrey Elliott venture into the social commentary playground in defence of their colleague, are they doing so as ‘professional journalists’ or as private individuals? Based on the exchanges I had with Matthew Franklin on Friday evening, I’d say it was more the former than the latter, given Franklin wanted nothing more than to convince me that “I did my job”, and “ask Grog”. So, was he engaging as a News Ltd journo riding to the defence of a colleague, was he attempting to claim sanctification for himself from Massola’s deed, or was he trying very hard to convince me that he was just like me, a social media inhabitant, with an opinion, who just happens to have a more intimate knowledge of going’s on than I do on a particular issue, and wanted to make something of an issue of his exclusivity?

I’ll offer this up as my view. In the social media playground, whether it be Facebook, Twitter, weblogs or any of the plethora of platforms available in the ether, you are a no-one, a null-body until you declare you are an entity by taking up a position. The minute you declare yourself to be a persona, express an opinion, take a position and engage with other inhabitants you’re immediately just the same as they are. Dan O’Bannon’s screenplay for ‘Alien’ tells us that In Space, No-One Can Hear You Scream. In the social media playground, no-one cares who you work for, what your rationales for a particular position might be, or who you think you are in the world outside of the playground. You’re just one of us. One of the great unwashed who adhere to the as-yet unwritten, and highly likely to never be written, set of ethics which revolve around common courtesy. Resistance is futile, but unlike The Borg, we will not bother with assimilating your distinctiveness into our collective. You either accept the social media paradigm, or you don’t, in which case you’ll be challenged and held to account. This is what #groggate is all about and it’s this collective common courtesy which Massola, et al, refuse to ‘get’.

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