On-Line Writers: Journalists or Columnists?

Peter B. GiblettStarred Page By Peter B. Giblett, 22nd Mar 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Columns & Opinions

One thing that we can all agree on is that the world of writing has changed forever. Gone are the days where only a few privileged writers are published. Today anyone can create their own Blog, yet quality is still a problem. For any 'professional' writer quality is important whether they are paid a large salary, pennies per article or simply nothing to write. But are quality online writers journalists or columnists?

The Role of the Writer

For the majority of us the advent of the Internet has challenged much of what we consider tradition, writing is certainly one of the areas most impacted. If you witness an earthquake, hurricane, a plane crash, a murder, or a robbery at your local drug store there is no need to wait for the reporters to tell the story to, you can simply start telling the world from your own mobile phone either through a social network or somewhere else that allows easy publication. We can clearly see that the role of the writer has changed over the last ten years. This was recently discussed in an associated article.

Yet it is necessary to ask whether we are playing the role of journalist or columnist, or perhaps both? Arguably anyone can be a writer, reporter, and publisher.

This is an interesting question and if you look on twitter at the hash-tags #Earthquakes #tsunamis you will find a large number of reports from those affected by the devastation in Japan or perhaps more recent events.

The On-line Journalist

For the on-line writer they take on the role of journalist when they report on events which they witness first hand. One of the aspects here if being topical, up-to the minute, and being seen as close to the action. But not one of the instigators, a simple bystander caught up in the flow. You would be precisely the person a camera crew would be looking to find to give the facts as they happened.

Having known many journalists during the course of my life they do have responsibilities beyond the simple reporting of what is seen. If you have attended any journalism classes then you will know that impartiality plays an important factor for them with respect to writing any story and in addition every fact has to be checked and double checked. However every person tells a story about an event from the perspective from which they saw actions unfold; they cannot help it, this is a part of what makes us human and it is doubted there is any such thing and an impartial human being, probably not.

No self proclaimed internet journalist will be impartial, they will have been affected by the things they see in accordance with where they witnessed the event from. What is occurring is they are writing the news as it impacts them. They also bring with them their own innate knowledge and experience, often more than a journalist brings. Yet this lack of impartiality can be OK when the story is being told over Twitter because there can be dozens of people telling the same story from their own perspective. looking at all the different witness statements it will be possible for the reader to gleam what happened, irrespective of personal viewpoints.

One aspect which can limit a journalist from a newspaper (or even a TV station) is telling a story that is not approved by the sponsor, or even one that opposes that sponsors interests, we know that pressure may be applied to kill the story, yet on-line reporting does not suffer the same limitations. Anyone can post a blog about any topic they wish it is a part of the great debate that can happen in cyberspace today and the weird part of this is that sites like Wikinut often do provide advertising about the very product that draws criticism, and there are probably statistics that will prove it to be beneficial to criticise an advertiser.

The On-Line Columnist

A columnist differs from a writer in that they are more distant from events and tend to offer a more critical perspective either by looking back at what happened or analysing future prospects. They may perhaps offer a way forward or simply a reminder to get back to the basics of a situation and start over again. They can comment from a different perspective because they seek to cause us to think and reassess any situation. This is as true for the Japanese earthquake as it is for the Middle East crisis.

One thing a columnist does is add their own perspective. They may also add the perspective of learned academics, business leaders etc. The result of the column can be a call to action or a suggestion for moving in a new direction. Whether the advice is heeded is one thing that a columnist can do little about, except perhaps continue to write on the subject in the future.

I recently wrote an article criticising the ongoing actions of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) in respect of Internet usage based billing. The point of the article that the Commission is not encouraging free competition in the area Internet service provision within Canada. By their actions the CRTC is biased towards the larger corporations when in fact they should be thinking of the consumer. I concluded that it was time for a change of leadership in this organisation.

Critique is a crucial tool for the Internet based writer, they need to be prepared to challenge the status-quo is some way.

What are You?

If you are simply reading this article out of interest then I applaud you, but I do encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone and write something of interest to you or your specialist area of interest. I promise you that you will enjoy it in the long run.

If you are an Internet based writer then I will ask whether you are a journalist or columnist, or perhaps both? In this modern world there is important room for both. This writer's background is in developing corporate strategy and as such have tended to find it much easier to write from a columnists perspective, particularly with the importance of challenging how people think and looking for alternative approaches, different solutions, a new path. Not everything we do now we should continue. Listen to people and find that when they complain about something they may have valid issues that need to be addressed; this offers an alternative perspective that needs to be understood; even if at the end of the day you decide not to pursue that path it should be considered.

This is how we grow. So will this writer continue to challenge? Of course - because without responding to challenge we do not move forward. How will you grow?

It is true that there are other types of writers here on the internet, including poets and budding novelists and this article was not really looking in the direction of fiction.

Other articles include:


Business Growth, Column Writer, Columnist, Journalism, Journalist, Personal Development, Personal Experience, Personal Growth, Write For Money, Write For Pay, Writers

Meet the author

author avatar Peter B. Giblett
Author of "Is your Business Ready? For the Social Media Revolution"

Social media consultant, with C-Level background.

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author avatar Val Mills
3rd Jul 2011 (#)

Probably a columnist, perhaps more truthfully a blogger of some kind

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author avatar Han Van Meegerin
4th Mar 2012 (#)

Interesting question.

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author avatar Abdur Quaderi
2nd Jun 2014 (#)

You haven't mentioned another category, where I belong - novelist ... (trying to be)... :)

There are two other categories - storyteller and poet.

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
2nd Jun 2014 (#)

Abdur, Of course there are would-be novelists on-line and many works of fiction, but the scope of this article was more in relation to presentation of factual material.

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author avatar Etc.
31st Jul 2014 (#)

I'm a writer of words that usually make up sentences. Glib? Of course, but I'm hard to pigeon-hole. I write. Every day. Short stories and fiction, occasionally poetry, journals, blogs, web sites, on even on-line sites like this one (this is the second such site I've tried).

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
31st Jul 2014 (#)

@Etc. Every writers role is to craft sentences, it is how we craft those sentences, the words we use and the power we can portray that makes us acceptable (or not) to our audience. Enjoy your Wikinut journey.

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author avatar brendamarie
5th Oct 2016 (#)

great question, over the years my view of my own writing has changed. Once, I was a poet, next an article writer or blogger. Right now I am just wanting to write to help other. So, I would say that blogger would define my writing at the moment but that could change yet again.

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
7th Oct 2016 (#)

Brendamarie, I think we do all change in our interests, but we still have core interests that we come back to again and again.

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