Pundits and forward-thinkers are still wrestling with questions about “citizen journalists” and “mainstream media.” There are many hands being wrung, many stones being turned, much low-hanging fruit being picked, and a plethora of inappropriate analogies languishing in the passive tense.

Let me save you all some time. “Citizen journalists” (or “those bastard bloggers in pajamas,” if you are on the other side of the ideological chasm,) will never replace mainstream Journalists — at least as long as mainstream Journalists hang on to their only edge:

Opacity.

I know. I am now a heretic within the blogging community. A pariah. Simmer down.

The fact is that what makes for a good blogger doesn’t necessarily make for a good journalist, and vice/versa. Blogging is all about using the power of social media and networking to be transparent. You air it all out, and count on others to forgive your warts. It happens most of the time, because the users/readers passionate enough to invest themselves in your online community will usually value your honesty moreso than your lack of perfection.

Big-J mainstream Journalism doesn’t enjoy that luxury. Tampa reporter Don Germaise found that out in a very big way. While trying to nail down an interview with an elusive white separatist, he agreed to a reciprocal interview. Not just allowing the subject to jointly record — he was the subject for a separate interview for a National Vanguard website. The site included the reporter’s candid quotes about illegal immigration, free speech, and editorial decisions.

Let’s not focus on the views of the website, but instead on the reaction:

“I can state unequivocally that there is nothing about this group that I like. I was naive … to let them use my words to make it appear the way they did. I was wrong.”

Objectively speaking, if a political blogger posted those same words, there would be no issue. Bloggers are given the green light to have opinions and be transparent. It is expected. So why is Germaise apologizing?

“We are supposed to be the messengers and not the story,” said Germaise. “Here, I’ve become the story, which is wrong. It does a disservice to my viewers.”

Because he recognizes that ultimately, he barters in truth, and not honesty.

  • Truth is more objective, honesty is more subjective.
  • Truth is compromised by errors of comission, honesty by errors of omission.
  • Truth is telling your wife that no, those jeans don’t make her butt look big. Honesty is telling her that her butt looks big without the jeans.

Humans have a need for both truth and honesty. And even in a fractured and partisan age where we can cherry-pick our reading assignments, there’s something validating about seeing our pet point of view getting treatment from the objective Big-J types.

Citizen journalists, generally-speaking, tend to be fired up about and handful of issues. They step forward with knowledge, skill, and brazen honesty. Big-J journalists know they have to keep their biases as private as possible. They are the non-eunuchs we trust to guard the harem, because once their cover is blown, we (ahem) cut them off.

Part of our bumpy transition into this new media landscape is we’ve bought into the idea that something will “replace” something else. While we are now swimming in far more honesty than we’ve ever had, all that honesty won’t change the need for objective fact-crunching.

And that’s the honest truth. Opaquely.

Any reference to “wife,” “jeans,” or anatomical features is done within a construct of creative license. Such statements are works of fiction, and any resemblance to a person living or deceased is strictly coincidental. Honestly honey, it’s the truth. I swear!