Back in the “good old days,” I’m not sure when that was, but they were still the “good old days,” you could always tell who the reporters were, and when they were on the job.
They were the ones with the note pads, camera or microphones. They were taking notes and, perhaps most importantly, asking questions.
Of course, many times reporters and private citizen were at the same places and events, but the citizens were the one standing around watching while the reporters worked.
With the development of cell phone capability to record both sound and pictures, anyone can now go through the motions of being a reporter. Aim the camera, press a button or two, and your “story” can be sent around the world. Of course, the story most often is simply raw video with no context, but it is nevertheless called “news,” especially when it’s picked up by a supposedly traditional media form and treated like a real story.
Some courts are further clouding the distinction between reporters and civilians, by allowing anyone to record legal proceedings.
Now, I’m not saying that is a bad thing. After all, if trials are open to the public, why shouldn’t they be recorded, so long as the person is not being disruptive? We have also seen instances where citizens have recorded inappropriate or illegal activities, and the resulting publicity has resulted in necessary changes.
But it’s this blurring of the line between reporter and regular citizen that has me bothered.
Already too many people can’t seem to tell the difference between news and commentary, or between news and entertainment. Calling anyone with a note pad, a microphone or a camera a “reporter” is demeaning to the profession, and can only make the public more suspicious of what real reporters do for our society.