This article is a bit different from my usual style.
Mainly because I didn't actually write it. A friend of mine, Kevin McGuire, did. He and I are both writers, and he read an article I recently shared by a fellow Odyssey writer responding to a wildly uninformed article from University of Wisconsin's student newspaper, The Spectator.
In this article, writer Sami West misinterprets the purpose of the Odyssey and what, exactly, we writers are. She starts out by saying Odyssey is a journalism site, then contradicts herself by later on calling it a blog site. In short, she calls us a disgrace to journalism and highlights some of the more ridiculous, sensationalized articles that are an embarrassment to those of us in the Odyssey community who actually have brains and work tirelessly to produce good, thought-out and important content that the Facebook page doesn't always highlight.
So as Kevin aptly puts it, here's the actual difference between bloggers and journalists.
A good friend of mine is president of our local chapter of Odyssey. She frequently bombards her social media with links to both articles she's written and articles that she helped curate.
I'll be honest: most of the time, I don't read them. They're listicles, which I can't personally stand, and tiny opinions shouted from soapboxes don't really catch the eye of a big-picture guy like myself.
Today, however, was a bit different. My dear friend shared a response to an attack that both she and other representatives of this website have experienced: an attack on Odyssey as "not real journalism," and the contributors "not real journalists."
To the attacker's merit, they're right. Odyssey has never been journalism, and its contributors are not journalists. The writer mentions that Odyssey is a blog, and its contributors, bloggers. This, I think, is the real reason behind the attacks: People don't seem to understand the difference between journalists and bloggers.
While I am not a journalist by profession, I do have a journalism degree and have written hundreds of stories for both my college paper, our student-run paper, and for classes. There are real differences between journalism and blogging.
To put it simply, journalism takes raw information, packages it into a neat article, and publishes it. It has been edited and edited and edited again, each time preening each word and extracting any sort of personal "voice" or opinion from it. It is raw information processed into packaged information. This allows for citizens to get news in the clearest, most concise, and least biased manner.
Blogging is an opinion. That's really it. Platforms like Odyssey allow for writers to freely express their opinion on any subject, as creatively as they want, and share it with the world. It requires little (if at all) editing, and it's written with a clear, personal voice. It is, by very definition, biased.
Now, let me be clear: There is nothing wrong with opinions, and everyone should be allowed to express them. It's our right as free Americans. However, there is a very large problem with opinions masquerading as journalism, and this, I believe, is where the disconnect for many people is.
Institutions like The New York Times and The Washington Post have exhaustive editing teams that check, recheck, and triple check articles before they're printed to ensure that we can trust them to bring us the most unbiased information from the day's news. Journalists who write for these institutions also do exhaustive research, interview multiple sources and confirm stories with other people to ensure an unbiased story. However, blogs which masquerade as journalism, while doing some of the work a journalist does, only confirms stories that align with their agenda or opinion. This results in an only partly confirmed story that may be based on facts but has a clear, biased voice and opinion.
This is the dangerous part when blogs either barely confirm or do not confirm news stories and publish stories and articles as news when in reality, it is an interpretation of a story that aligns with a specific agenda. And when articles like these gain traction, as they do so often on shows like InfoWars and on sites like Breitbart, it becomes reality for many people who get their news solely from sites like these. It's not only dangerous to these people but puts lives at risk, as we saw with tragedies like PizzaGate.
Odyssey has never masqueraded as journalism, nor I believe will it ever. It has found its niche among first-time writers who are trying to test out their voice, start their own blog, or simply vent to the world about their problems.
They are not journalists. They are bloggers. Learn the difference.