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Pick of the day: Is this journalism?


Stumbled across a video yesterday produced by our friends over at Slate. It's a sort of mashup called "Tiger Woods search history" and it features the ubiquitous Google screen that people use billions of times every day and someone, presumably Woods, typing in queries such as "how to hide facial lacerations" and "zales locations orlando florida." Snazzy music plays in the background. Videos like this pop up on YouTube every day -- at-home smarty pants using easily obtainable digital images to tell a story about something happening in popular culture. But is this journalism? If not, what is it? And does it even matter what we call it?

Doing a little crowd sourcing, I asked members of the Post's local enterprise team what they thought. Their answers are below. More important, what do you think? Is this journalism? Offer your thoughts in the comments section.

Me: It seems to me that this video does what great journalism does -- it makes the reader/watcher/listener understand what it's like to be someone else. In this case, it is Tiger Woods doing what billions of people do every day: Googling things related to his life. It just so happens that his life is very strange right now, and we get to experience that as we look over his shoulder. It is intimate journalism, in images."

Marc Fisher, our editor: "It's not journalism in the strict, traditional sense, but we don't live in that strict place anymore. You could argue that this video doesn't add to our knowledge or understanding of the events of our time, but actually, I found myself learning some new bits as I watched it (somehow the Derek Jeter angle on the Tiger story had completely slipped by me.) This piece is very effective commentary or opinion journalism, and the best of commentary informs even as it argues for a particular position or perspective."

Ian Shapira: "It's hard to tell whether it's a scathing commentary about the ease with which we can cull information, or, given the upbeat music, a celebration of our times. Maybe it's both. Or, more likely, it's a snarky attack against Tiger for being so incredibly stupid and careless about his protected image, pointing out that he's now, like every other celebrity, totally exposed to swift, scandalous Google searches."

Chris Davenport: "It's a very smart, creative interpretation that is part commentary, part story-telling. Maybe it's journalism, maybe it's not. But to me, it definitely falls under the ever broad and always evolving definition of art."

Brigid Schulte: "It is definitely whimsical and diverting and fun to watch - I especially liked the pregnant pause of the cursor as the would-be Tiger tried to figure out where to go next. But journalism? I vote no. It does put the reader in Tiger's shoes, but in an imagined and speculative way - even the raciest posts about the Woods incident, like US Weekly with the alleged voicemail Tiger left for another mistress, don't mention divorce lawyers like this one muses. Entertainment. Though these days, I'm not sure labels matter so much anymore. Should they?"

J. Freedom du Lac: "It's journalism, it's social commentary and it's sketch comedy, not necessarily in that order. And it's perfect fodder for the Twitterverse -- TMZ meets SNL via RSS, or something. But whether or not it's Dictionary-Definition Journalism is almost an irrelevant question circa 2009 when "The Daily Show" and The Onion are major news sources -- and this very web site produces a video series in which mundane celebrity tweets are given "dramatic" readings. Is that journalism? Dunno, but it's pretty funny. (All the news and guffaws you can use, etc.)"

Steve Hendrix: "I'd call it a videtorial cartoon. It's doesn't report, it doesn't debut any original information (I assume), but it encapsulates the story-to-date in a meaningful and instantly digestible new context. Like Tom Toles."

Now it's your turn. Chime in.

By Michael S. Rosenwald  | December 4, 2009; 8:30 AM ET
Categories:  Story Picks  
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Definitely not journalism. The lines may be getting blurrier every day, but this isn't even close.

Posted by: TonyFo | December 4, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

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