SUNDAY TRIBUNE: 16 JANUARY 2005
"FANS with typewriters", was often the description used to pour cold water on overheated sports reporting. Sometimes the depiction was fair but often the phrase concealed smouldering snobbery with a touch of envy.
These 'fans with typewriters' were considered to be at the DIY end of sports journalism. Part-timers and hobbyists who meant well but were not really capable of producing the goods as consistently as the professionals.
That was before the meaning of DIY was given a good sanding down, wallpapered and a fresh coat of gloss paint.
When banks quietly edged their customers out of the branches and cajoled them online, it wasn't DIY banking it was 'self-service'.
If there's no one easily visible in a supermarket to answer a query or help with packing, it's not DIY shopping, it's 'self-service'. Same goes for petrol station forecourts, airports and many other places and services.
Ikea opening in Ireland is not the coming of a DIY store but the arrival of a concept with "affordable solutions for better living". Which will be small comfort when sanity has disappeared along with two brackets, six screws, four washers and all feeling in both legs.
Judging by the amount and variety of 'home improvement' shows on television these days, DIY is regaining its respectability and pride.
"Thanks - I did it myself".
"Good for you".
Not all is rosy in the garden of DIY, however. In the changing world of media and journalism there is continuing unease about blogging, the shorthand for web logging.
When the web reached critical mass some years ago, millions of people put up their own websites. Enthusiastically encouraged by internet service providers to avail of free hosting space. Many of these sites were really good. A big downside, though, was the inability to easily check for updates.
Blogging software changed that. It introduced syndication and a way of getting the word out when new posts had been added. Instead of having to visit websites to see what's new, sites using blogging software could automatically let people know. With this, blogs took off.
Subsequently, they have have been simultaneously praised for their quality and content and ridiculed for their inane personal diary musings and pet photographs.
They are increasing in popularity and the Merriam-Webster online dictionary recently reported that blog was its most looked up word last year.
While blogging has blossomed, the same can't be said about its relationship with journalism.
The early campaign of US presidential candidate Howard Dean and the current aftermath of the Asian tsunami has firmly placed bloggers in the media spectrum. Exactly where is still unfolding.
Blogging is facilitating what is being called civic or citizen journalism, or more generally referred to as participatory journalism. There is also a media watchdog tendency to blogging.
The recently-formed Media Bloggers Association describes its members as playing "a valuable role by holding media organisations accountable for their reporting" and "commenting on the current and future state of the media". It also supports "the emerging citizen journalism movement".
While media mergers continuing unabated, it is plausible that citizen journalism is the first green shoots of independent journalism in this new digital era. Whether it can fulfill that possibility is too early to tell.
One of the key issues facing journalism (and democracy to some extent) is the question of privilege and the protection of sources.
In Ireland there is no absolute right to such privilege and there have been a number of cases coming to court recently where privilege limits will be tested.
It's only a matter of time before someone writing on a blog is challenged to reveal their sources. What happens then to the notion of journalistic privilege, limited and all as it is?
Commenting on such a scenario concerning a recent case in the US, Jane Kirtley, a professor of media ethics and law, said: "They'll say anybody with a modem and a computer is a 'journalist'. No court is going to be comfortable with that sort of wholesale privilege."
Floyd Abrams, a defending lawyer in the same case, had this to say: "I think a blogger who communicates with and tries to communicate with thousands of people is no less deserving than a journalist who may communicate with a smaller audience through a small-town newspaper.
"There should be protection so long as information was obtained for the purpose of dissemination to the public at large in some sort of analogous way to what 'journalists' do."
Once again the internet is calling into question long-standing legal practices and jurisprudence and reconciling this new reality won't be easy.
Think flat-pack bookcase and you're in the right territory.