Quantifying Journalism’s élite

Josh Wolf has been in jail for almost three months now. His crime? Refusal to turn over videotape of (perhaps) crimes being committed by (perhaps) anarchists that government prosecutors want to do their job. Josh’s defense is he’s a journalist and must protect his sources. A Federal Appeals court turned down his request for a rehearing this week, and Josh may end up in jail longer than any journalist in modern history.

And yet, we’re not hearing the same kind of hue and cry from the journalist community that we did for, say, Judith Miller. That’s because Wolf is a blogger.

Well, the New York Times is now calling him a “freelance video journalist and blogger.”

I guess that makes it okay to write about the guy, so I’ve decided there is a pecking order in the world of journalism — a hierarchy that gives points for professional status.

  1. Big time journalist — one whose credentials are of national or global scope. Must have a book to qualify for this élite status.
  2. Real journalist — anybody else who works for a mainstream media company. Wishes to be big time. Contemplating a book deal.
  3. Freelance journalist — one who works for a mainstream company on an assignment basis. Not quite real. Wishes to be big time.
  4. Near journalist — any student studying to be one of the above. Wishes to be big time.
  5. Source — any person who works with a journalist to provide information. Wishes to write a book and be big time.
  6. Tipster — less than a source, because all he/she does is provide tips. Wants to be close to the big time.
  7. Witness — not a tipster, because events brought he/she into contact with journalism. Yearns for 15 minutes of fame in the big time.
  8. Just a guy — any person who perhaps has a cellphone and can help the process. Wishes only to be paid, by the big time.
  9. Readers/viewers — people who consume journalism. Oblivious to all of the above and don’t really care.
  10. Blogger — on the list, but not really a journalist.

Sigh. No wonder Josh doesn’t get any props (except as a freelance video journalist).

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