Nick Lemann is the Dean of the Columbia University School of Journalism and a former New Yorker staff writer. While at Harvard – where he graduated in 1976 – Lemann served as President of the Crimson. He has worked as a reporter and editor at The Washington Monthly, Texas Monthly, The Atlantic Monthly and The Washington Post, focusing primarily on national affairs.
Lemann is the author of The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America, The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy, about the SAT, and most recently, Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War, about the failure of Reconstruction. At Columbia, where he was hired as Dean of the Journalism School in 2003, Lemann implemented a two-year curriculum and has focused on teaching alternative journalistic mediums in the Internet age.
Nicholas Lemann: Yeah. I mean I don’t wanna get into that one, this who is and who isn’t a journalist. I mean basically we’re not a licensed profession. We don’t have to decide . . . Anyone who says he or she is a journalist is a journalist as far as I’m concerned. The person who does the horoscope for the newspaper is a journalist. The person who does the comic strip is a journalist. You know I really don’t wanna get all kind of huffy about saying, “This person is a journalist. This person is not a journalist.” The distinction with the difference to me is who goes out and does original news gathering? And you know most bloggers don’t. And the thing I would like to call the bloggers on is their claim that by virtue of sitting at home, you know, searching the Internet they are doing meaningful, original reporting; that should rank on a level with a reporter who goes on site and talks to people and sees it with his own eyes. And I don’t think that’s fair, but I don’t wanna say “No, bloggers are not journalists.” Journalism began, arguably, with people very much like bloggers – pamphleteers and other purveyors of individual opinion. I wouldn’t even call them quasi journalists. I would just call them journalists, but I would not call them reporters. They’re columnists basically.
Recorded on: 11/30/07