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In Jordan, IPI Debates Who Is a Journalist As Corporate Media Lashes Out

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 19 -- They gathered in Jordan in the shadow of the Syrian conflict and asked themselves, Who is a journalist?

  It was an opening session of the International Press Institute's "World Congress," and a range of attitudes, from self-serving to open, were on display, if only by twitter. (Tellingly, the event was not live-streamed, but hundreds of tweets from inside the Versailles-like hall conveyed the debate.)

  Corporate for-profit media is in hard times, and so it is important to them to circle the wagons and protect what's left of their monopoly, such the way lawyers and even doctors do, in the developed world.

  But others on the panel took a broader view. Laura Weffer Cifuentes from Venezuela focused on passion, calling journalism a "way of life." John Yearwood said simply that anyone involved in the mass distribution of news is a journalist.

  What is mass, for example on Twitter? Five thousand followers? Or like some "professional" journalists, less than a thousand?

  Does typing up information spoon-fed by a public figure make you a journalist? At the UN, which Inner City Press covers in detail, does being a pass through from the views or even "scoops" of particular powerful countries' embassies make you a journalist?

  What is clear to Inner City Press is that big corporate media cannot be the ones to decide who is a journalist. At the UN they have tried it, between Reuters and Agence France Presse and Voice of America - and at least for now it has failed.

  But they continue to try, lobbying UN media accreditation official Stephane Dujarric (himself formerly of corporate media) to deny UN media space to the investigative Press.

  The moderator or main panelist was Jim Clancy from CNN. He recently spoke at the UN, where corporate media have tried to get others thrown out. It was raised to such paragons as the Committee to Protect Journalists, who did nothing. They are funded by the corporate media which tried to eject others. Something must be done.

  From the audience in Amman, a representative of the Ford Foundation (a "partner" of the endeavor) posited that it is the public who decides who is a journalist. But the professionals among them resisted, referring to education or membership in a union. Style over substance, form over function.

  There are acts of journalism, some less opinionated that others. To live tweet a Security Council debate is one thing. To find fresh information is another. To retype spoon-fed propaganda? We're not saying they don't have a place. But they can't define it. Watch this site.

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