Is Buffalo Beast Editor Ian Murphy a Blogger or Journalist

Posted on February 27, 2011

Today CNN’s Reliable Sources, the show that reviews news papers, on-line outlets and other news sources, threw the spotlight on the prank phone call to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker  from an editor at the  left leaning on-line “news outlet” the Buffalo Beast, Ian Murphy.

Murphy appears to be a 30 something young man  who is very much at ease in front of a camera (if YouTube videos are any guide).  Like any great performer, he “studied” for his “role” as David Koch,  the millionaire friend and contributor to the campaign of Governor  Scott Walker, practicing speech patterns and etc. He artfully sidestepped the Governor’s office call back policy followed before putting calls through to him.

Pretending to be someone else to get a story is not the first line a journalist takes.  As the panel on Reliable Sources this morning acknowledged, there are times when it is within the bounds of journalism ethics to hide your true identity to uncover information that cannot be uncovered any other way.  This was pushing the envelope.

This was flat out deception for a story that was not an issue of great import (what motivated the Governor or what he could trip him up to say about the unions).  But then the panel did the unthinkable.  It concluded that Ian Murphy was – wait for it – a blogger not a journalist.

This war is carried out daily on the web.  It may never be resolved.  What is a journalist?  A large part of what a journalist is may be defined by the very title of the show cited above Reliable Sources.  If you are going to a web site for “news” or analysis that is managed by someone who does not insist on citing references, you may be misled by what the site is putting out there as “fact.”  Even opinion should be based on review of “facts.”  Of course facts can often be relative but in the main, they do answer the age old journalism questions:

In journalism, the Five W’s (also known as the Five W’s (and one H), or Six W’s) is a concept in news style, research, and in police investigations that are regarded as basics in information-gathering. It is a formula for getting the “full” story on something. The maxim of the Five W’s (and one H) is that for a report to be considered complete it must answer a checklist of six questions, each of which comprises an interrogative word:

  • Who is it about?
  • What happened (what’s the story)?
  • When did it take place?
  • Where did it take place?
  • Why did it happen?
  • How did it happen? [from Wikipedia after checking references]

Huffington Post [see their coverage of the Walker-Murphy story here] is now considered a news outlet and was recently sold to AOL as such.  Ms. Huffington raised her blog to this status through her management of the site and good marketing savvy that mastered Google and how to stay on top. [see The Googlization of Everything].  Nevertheless, journalism of some form is practiced at the site.

Today’s blogger may be of the quality actually above that of journalism.  One is not always above the other.  A News and Opinion blog is just that and is to be respected when based on reliable sources, good reporting and writing.  It’s all in the “how.”