Why is Sgrena Called a Journalist?

Craig Henry poses an interesting question:

If journalists have to be non-partisan by definition (according to the “bloggers can’t be journalists” school of thought), then why does the press keep referring to Giuliana Sgrena as a journalist? She works for the a nakedly partisan newspaper– Il Manifesto — the voice of the Italian communists. If she is a journalist, isn’t Jeff Gannon?

I’d say Yes to both Sgrena and Gannon. But Craig’s point is a valid one in the sense that many people do include in their definition of “journalism” a requirement of objectivity. Of course, Dan Rather wouldn’t qualify under that definition, either.

Dictionary.com offers the following definition of “journalism:”

jour·nal·ism (jûrn-lzm) n.

1. The collecting, writing, editing, and presenting of news or news articles in newspapers and magazines and in radio and television broadcasts.
2. Material written for publication in a newspaper or magazine or for broadcast.
3. The style of writing characteristic of material in newspapers and magazines, consisting of direct presentation of facts or occurrences with little attempt at analysis or interpretation.
4. Newspapers and magazines.
5. An academic course training students in journalism.
6. Written material of current interest or wide popular appeal.

Sgrena and Gannon both qualify. Interestingly, bloggers (or, for that matter, people who write for Slate and Salon and other online publications) don’t since this definition is based on the medium of presentation.

FILED UNDER: Europe, Media,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Why is she called a journalist?
    UPDATE: OTB comments here.

  2. Tom says:

    I disagree.

    The definition includes “Broadcast”. What casts a broader signal than the internet. When anyone posts something to their blog, their potential audience is much greater than any signal put out by a TV transmitter.

    So under the broadcast definition, we are all journalists!

  3. arky says:

    Actually, the definition was “in radio and television broadcasts”, which still specifies the media.

    The definition is likely pre-internet anyways…which is kind of funny for an internet source…

  4. Jan Hammer says:

    prop-a-gan-da 1. The systematic propagation of a given doctrine or of allegations reflecting its view & interests. 2. material disseminated by the proselytizers of a doctrine.

  5. nancy schmelter says:

    Your comparison of Sgrena and Gannon makes leaps and detours of logic that betray any reason or scientific deduction. Sgrena had 30 some years of experience, and a bonafide education. She has reported historical events from the frontlines, and she didn’t have to work from talking points given to her or lifted from the government’s daily handout. Gannon on the other hand has a 50 dollar certificate from a 2 day, right wing “journalism” daycamp. He has virtually no experience in the field, and he never wrote anything that hadn’t been scripted for him. I think you do your readers a disservice by perpetuating such distortions of truth.

  6. James Joyner says:

    Nancy: So, what credentials must someone have to be a “journalist”? Many of the big names had little formal training. Few have more than a bachelor’s from a small, non-elite school.

    And I don’t see why 30 years experience makes her a “journalist,” either. Can someone just starting not be part of the profession?

  7. Dave McCarthy says:

    You don’t see how thiry years experience as a journalist makes someone a journalist? And then you suggest someone “just starting out” should be considered part of the profession. Strange.

    The bottom line is that there is no serious comparison between someone who has been in the business for thirty years, writing ORIGINAL material, and someone who’s been around long enough for a cup of coffee who copies and pastes his “work”

  8. The definition of journalism is certainly of some interest, but the key point about Gannon is that he was involved in internet prostitution, yet he got a pass into the White House. Put that together with Bernie Kerik’s misadventures, the lack of action against the undemocratic, terrorist-funding Saudis and Enron’s Ken Lay and you start to think that the W.H. is ok with criminals, just as long as they tow the party line.

    And if Helen Thomas can’t get a pass after decades of reporting in the WH press room, you’d be crazy to think Sgrena would have qualified, so the Sgrena/Gannon relationship is a false comparison.

  9. Say Anything says:

    Is Sgrena A Journalist?
    As the blame-America-first portion of the left begins to latch onto the Sgrena “the Americans tried to kill me” story they will no doubt use the fact that Sgrena is a journalist to buttress her claims. Which leads to this observation by Craig Henry:…

  10. jukeboxgrad says:

    “And I don’t see why 30 years experience makes her a ‘journalist,’ either. Can someone just starting not be part of the profession?”

    Nice to know you don’t see the difference between someone who’s devoted their life to a profession, as compared with someone who is a hack and an impostor. Maybe someday you’ll need open heart surgery, and you won’t mind being worked on by an accomplished prostitute who happens to have essentially no medical experience. After all, “can someone just starting not be part of the profession?”

  11. James Joyner says:

    Well, whether he was doing sex stuff on the side has nothing to do with whether his writing was journalistic.

    A surgeon just out of med school is as much a surgeon as one who’s been doing it 30 years. More experience is likely better, all things equal, but that doesn’t really enter into the definitional debate.

    And, again, my argument is that both Sgrena and Gannon–indeed, anyone who writes for public consumption–is a journalist.

  12. Michael Rosenberg says:

    Firsrt of all, journalists don’t have to be, in fact are not supposed to be, objective. They are supposed to express their own opinions based on relevant facts. Reporters on the other hand,must be objective to be credible.
    Secondly, Jeff (James) Gannon (Guckhart) is neither a reporter nor a journalist, but a political hack by virtue of his known background. The main problem here is how and why the White House admitted this fraudulant person into the press confrences with phoney credientials for more than a year. Are they complicit in this unethical and incompetent behavior? I would love to hear a response from his supporters.

  13. jukeboxgrad says:

    “both Sgrena and Gannon—indeed, anyone who writes for public consumption—is a journalist.”

    If you want to reduce the question to semantical nonsense, then I could use your “logic” to demonstrate that my two-year old using fingerpaints in a big exhibit at the public library is also a “journalist.” Trouble is, my two-year old doesn’t expect her first assignment to be in the White House. That would be an odd first-stop in a typical journalism career. Folks like you apparently see nothing odd about it being Gannon’s first stop.

    “for more than a year.”

    Two years. And called on frequently.

  14. McGehee says:

    Where do people get the idea that being a “journalist” is a good thing? From my observation, “prostitute” is a more honorable profession anyway.

  15. LeaNder says:

    Considering Craig Henry:

    Objectivety is a big myth. But there is a basic law in journalism: Comment is free, but facts are sacred.

    And if it comes to basic informations about the incidents, why should I trust the US government more than the Sgrena?

    see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.

    Probably this is the kind of journalism he prefers:

    http://www.journalismjobs.com/matt_labash.cfm

    “JournalismJobs.com: Why have conservative media outlets like The Weekly Standard and Fox News Channel become more popular in the past few years?

    Matt Labash: Because they feed the rage. We bring the pain to the liberal media. I say that mockingly, but it’s true somewhat. We come with a strong point of view and people like point of view journalism. While all these hand-wringing Freedom Forum types talk about objectivity, the conservative media likes to rap the liberal media on the knuckles for not being objective. We’ve created this cottage industry in which it pays to be un-objective. It pays to be subjective as much as possible. It’s a great way to have your cake and eat it too. Criticize other people for not being objective. Be as subjective as you want. It’s a great little racket. I’m glad we found it actually.”

    America is a big country with many wonderful minds, Mr Joyner is not one of them. I consider this a very sick, and well planned libel. Is this American tolerance or just the new kind of cold war rhetoric?

    KRAUT

  16. bryan says:

    Craig Henry is wrong on this one, as much as I enjoy Craig’s work. Sgrena is called a journalist because she is considered one in her country. The European model (indeed the world-wide model outside the U.S.) is that newspapers are not “objective” in the sense that we would consider them.

    She’s a journalist for the same reason Robert Fisk and the folks at Al Jazeera are “journalists.”

  17. unpoetaloco says:

    Your argument is specious on several counts:

    1) You’re comparing apples to oranges. The European press has never claimed to be anything but partisan. Everyone who reads a newspaper in any European country knows the politics of the paper. Fortunately, each country has many, many dailies. There’s something for everyone.

    2) The Republican Party line, “who cares what Europe thinks,” makes your whole argument moot anyway.

    3) Sgrena is a journalist by training and by profession. Guckert is neither. He was a hack plagiarist who copied and pasted his “articles” from White House talking points and lifted entire paragraphs from other legitimate reporters.

    4) I don’t think anyone cares if there are partisan reporters in the White House, emphasis on “reporters.” Each reporter brings a certain bias into the White House. Their job, however, is to leave as much of that bias as possible out of their reporting.

    5) No one is as insulted by Guckert’s presence as they are by his disingenuousness. He was an imposter in every sense of the word. And someone at some level above Scott McClellan facilitated his presence there.

    I could go on, but reason is lost on Guckert’s defenders.

  18. McGehee says:

    No one is as insulted by Guckert’s presence as they are by his disingenuousness. He was an imposter in every sense of the word. And someone at some level above Scott McClellan facilitated his presence there.

    Er, the other reporters in the White House press corps knew about him, and they’re not anywhere near as worked up about this as you moonbats are.

    I could go on, but reason is lost on Guckert’s defenders.

    BWAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAHHHH!!!

  19. Our Life says:

    Giuliana Sgrena Warned by Italian Cabinet Member
    Yes! The Italian journalist, Giuliana Sgrena, who dodges a hail of 300 to 400 rounds and bashes the US and Operation Iraqi Freedom at every chance she gets was told to be careful about the accounts of her “horrific accident”…

  20. LeaNder says:

    “Craig Henry is wrong on this one, as much as I enjoy Craig’s work. Sgrena is called a journalist because she is considered one in her country. The European model (indeed the world-wide model outside the U.S.) is that newspapers are not ‘objective’ in the sense that we would consider them.”

    Not true, Europe adheres just as much to the “objectivity” model. The problem lies in the idea/the concept:

    http://www.opednews.com/lower0204_objective_press_media.htm

    Our Objective US Press; Protecting American People from the Truth Dr. Gerry Lower

    Objectivity … “an object, phenomenon, or condition in the realm of sensible experience independent of individual thought” (Webster’s Collegiate) is a virtually mindless journalistic approach toward a similarly mindless social objective. Objectivity relative to what? By what value-laden criteria do we interpret the “news,” by the values of Democracy, the values of crony capitalism, or the values of traditional western religion?

    What we are after, of course, is a touch of honest human truth in American political reality, truth which is true for all observers and thinkers, truth independent of gender, cultural background or special interest. But, there is NO truth “independent of individual thought,” the individual being the only known source of ideas, true or otherwise. No group of individuals, no human organization, has ever had the ghost of an idea. Objectivity implies a truth independent of human existence and there is no such thing. If there were, it would be relevant to nothing human.

  21. john says:

    Your comparison of Sgrena and Gannon is insulting to journalism as a whole. Gannon was not a journalist by experience or training when he began his “job.” In addition, he also had a “job” in an illegal profession (prostitution)and advertised this over the Internet. Interestingly, he has not been charged with this crime.

  22. jukeboxgrad says:

    “the other reporters in the White House press corps knew about him, and they’re not anywhere near as worked up about this as you moonbats are.”

    Exactly, because they’re almost as corrupt as he is. This only proves the so-called liberal media isn’t.

    If what the “moonbats” found out about Gannon doesn’t mean anything, why isn’t he still visiting the White House every day?

    If what the “moonbats” found out about Gannon does mean something, then why was it up to some “moonbats” in pajamas to figure it out? Why didn’t the reporters who sat next to him for a couple of years figure it out?

  23. The flight of the Italian grouse
    From FoxNews: Giuliana Sgrena, who was abducted Feb. 4 in Baghdad, spoke from a Rome hospital where she was recuperating…

  24. Eddie Thomas says:

    Kevin said:
    “From my observation, ‘prostitute’ is a more honorable profession anyway.”

    And it probably requires more talent. Journalism programs draw weak students relative to other graduate programs. Whenever I know of a student who is interested in pursuing journalism, I strongly encourage them to major in economics or political science as well, so that they will actually learn something about the world. Instead, they choose as a second major or minor something like English, so that they will get more work on their writing. It is hard to take the journalism “credential” very seriously. (That doesn’t mean that there aren’t excellent journalists. It just means that the credentialing process doesn’t mean much.)

    Kevin’s right too that the other White House journalists don’t seem to be getting so worked up. Maybe that’s because covering White House press conferences isn’t such a plum.

    I am not interested in defending Gannon or the process by which he gained access to these press conferences. If Gannon is part of some diabolical plot to control the media, however, then everyone has seriously overestimated the genius of Karl Rove. And if he isn’t, then why is this of such interest to the Left?

  25. Hank Lominac says:

    Gannon is not a journalist: he regularly plagarized from White House press releases, and stolen entire sentences and paragraphs from Fox News and the New York Times.

    I don’t know Sgerna’s training or credentials…but I’ll bet she has more credentials than one weekend $50 seminar at the neo-conservative Leadership Institute. That’s all Gannon’s got.

  26. robert says:

    Need I remind you, the Italian lady was SHOT, not just bumped from the Scaife buffet line at the Heritage Foundation.

    And, if you think shooting commies is just fine, I suggest you turn in your passport lest the same treament be afforded “capitalists” acribes outside our merry little borders.

    Robert in DC

  27. Bryan says:

    It is hard to take the journalism “credential” very seriously. (That doesn’t mean that there aren’t excellent journalists. It just means that the credentialing process doesn’t mean much.)

    Perhaps it doesn’t mean much because there IS NO CREDENTIALLING PROCESS For journalism.

    God, if I see one more of these “journalism draws the weakest students” tropes, I’m going to scream.

    OF COURSE, eddie, everyone but the econ and poli sci students are stupid weaklings who know nothing about “the world,” unless you talk to the folks in the hard sciences, who have a few things to say about “social” scientists and their “research.”

    So climb down off your horse and stop coming off as a jerk.

    Journalism grad schools draw people who already have degrees in something else (check out northwestern or columbia for instance). And accredited journalism UNDERGRAD schools allow no more than 30 (33?) (that’s about one-fourth of the total, for you econ phreaks) hours in the major, requiring a liberal arts background.

  28. Kilroy2005 says:

    “—there IS NO CREDENTIALLING PROCESS For journalism.”

    Period.

    But Edward Beryns, the father of PR, wanted credentialling, or, shall we say, ‘licensing’ for publicists. He tried to have this pass into law in the State of Massachusetts in 1992.