A little while ago I read a blog by a Dutch watch journalist and found his post somewhat offensive. The result of one reply was another and another and this all made me think about the statements made and if they are true.
The statement that made the alarm bells go off can be read here and to be specific it was this quote: “Doing your own research and fact finding is a normal way of acting for journalists, but since most people who are writing about watches are no trained journalists, we tend to be the exception.”
(unfortunately the responses to this post, that make the statements much more explicit, have been taken off the website)
In this quotation several statements are made:
- Doing your own fact finding and fact finding is a normal way of acting for journalist, at least trained journalists
- Most people who write about watches are no trained journalist
- Untrained journalists do not do their own research and fact finding
- The magazine owned by this writer does its own research and fact finding and therefore seems to be the exception
I must admit that don’t disagree all four points. I agree with exactly one statement and that is that most people who write about watches (at least online) are no trained journalists, like me. But does this imply we are bad journalists? Does this imply we don’t do our own research, does this also mean we don’t do own fact finding? I can only speak for myself, but I couldn’t agree less with these imputations.
When I think of professional and trained journalists I think of watch magazines. Of course most of us, and with ‘us’ I mean ‘watch lovers, aficionados and collectors’, read one or more watch magazines from time to time. Most of the content of watch magazines is written by trained and professional journalists. I say ‘most of the content’ because I also write for a magazine and I know more untrained journalists who do. When I look at magazines it’s obvious that a fair amount of the content does not originate from own research or fact finding. It is simply put together from press releases.
I’m not taking a stand against magazines here. Looking how things go with watch magazines, I doubt they have the means for doing their own research and fact finding. They are in heavy weather, so to say. However the statement “Doing your own research and fact finding is a normal way of acting for journalist” is simply not true, at least not when we’re talking about watch magazines. And just to be very clear, I don’t mean that journalists writing for a watch magazine are bad journalists. I’m simply saying they are dealing with reality and working hard to put together a magazine within the budgetary boundaries.
Now the second questions is if untrained journalists, like bloggers (including me), are bad journalists? Don’t they do their own research and fact finding? I know I do my own research and fact finding and most of the time I use internet for that. It’s easy to find information about older collections, sometimes not available on the brand’s website. There is also much information about technical aspects and historical facts. Internet makes it easy to consult many different sources!
I also visit Baselworld, other watch fairs and I even travel to Switzerland to meet with the brands and to visit the manufactures. During the annual fairs I always meet with other bloggers like Robert-Jan Broer (Fratellowatches), Ben Clymer (Hodinkee), David Chalmers (Calibre11), Gerard Nijenbrinks (Horlogenieuws), Ian Ellery and Olivier Müller (both on behalf of Thewatchlounge). These guys are in my opinion among the best watch bloggers on the internet. However I believe there are more good watch bloggers who are (unfortunately) not always in the position to travel to Switzerland for the annual fairs or other occasions. Just think of Kyle Stults of Perpetuelle who is doing an amazing job and many more. Many of the good bloggers do this because they are passionate about watches and personally I think passion is a good motivator.
On the other hand there are also many bad/horrible/lousy websites, who do nothing more than to copy/paste press releases and there are even many websites who simply copy the original content written by myself and other bloggers! These copycats will do what they do and I try to ignore these type of websites. Luckily there are some good bloggers who write their own unique content. A list of my favorite blogs can be found on the link page.
Do I agree with the statement that these guys, untrained journalists, are bad journalists and don’t do any research and fact finding themselves? Is the fact that someone is a trained journalist a warranty for research, fact finding and original content?
I think I made my statement and I believe there are some excellent journalists, both online and offline, whether they are trained or untrained, who do an amazing job!