Bloggers Pay Up!

There has been much debate, back and forth, sideways, and every other way you can imagine, as to whether bloggers are, in fact, journalists. By definition, a journalist is someone who writes for newspapers or magazines. By that definition, I'm a journalist. Some would argue that if you write for newspapers or magazines, you probably make some amount of money, thereby befitting the title of professional. A journalist then is a professional writer, someone who makes at least some part of his or her living by writing. I still qualify.

Bloggers have been arguing for a while now that they are worthy of the title journalist, even if they aren't actually being paid by anyone to write about whatever it is they write. 

Now let me be clear about something up front. My suggestion that bloggers aren't professionals isn't to suggest that there aren't some amazing writers out there who aren't getting paid. It's not much of a stretch to suggest that there are probably fewer good writers out there making a living at it then not. Getting published and getting paid to write usually requires a fair bit of luck and some amount of talent. The latter hasn't always been a prerequisite. Just as making a fortune at what you do doesn't necessarily mean that what you do is in any way valuable; reality television anyone? Yeah, I know, reality TV generates ad revenue and revenue can be defined as value. It was a joke — sort of. But I digress . . . Some bloggers are, indeed, excellent writers.

Aside from money, journalists enjoy other privileges such as shield laws that allow journalists to protect the identity of their sources (in most of the civilized world). Bloggers have, more than once, broken a story that can be considered 'dangerous' both literally and legally. This rather important distinction between blogger and journalist has been the subject of many court battles, battles that continue to this day.

Let's get back to making money though (yes, please). If you do something and you make money doing it, and you aren't the employee of a company, then you're a business. Well, over in Philadelphia, the purported city of brotherly love, the local government wants to compliment all bloggers, be they professionals (in the sense of making money) or not, with a backhanded compliment. And a doozy of a compliment it is Pay us a $300 license fee for your blog. After all, you're a journalist, right? A professional? A business?  Well, businesses require licenses to operate (one component of paying taxes). 

Philly, like many cash-strapped cities, and there are a lot of them, are looking to find new other sources of income. Taxing bloggers, in Philadelphia at least, seems like a pretty good idea. If this idea catches on, the bevy of bloggers we enjoy today may decrease dramatically. After all, if you publish on the Web and make no money, how money will want to pay to keep sharing their words with the world?

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