(In)Convenient Journalist

Tony Ortega is one of America’s most infamous Twitter hatemongers, a blowhard opinion-slinger who regularly tweets his thoughts and opinions on the very narrow number of subjects that seem to capture his fleeting attention.

But lately a kind of meta question has swirled around Ortega: Is he a journalist? And if not, what is he?

The question is probably irrelevant to Ortega’s blindly loyal followers. But the old journalist-or-not? question is an important one to the rest of us still unfooled by the work Ortega produces. Journalists are bound to recuse themselves  from a story in which they have a personal stake.

Ortega clearly has a personal axe to grind against Scientology. As ludicrous as the claim sounds, he has stated many times over how he hopes to personally be the one to bring down the Sea Org. And yet, Ortega continues to flaunt the ethical rules of journalism when it suits his ends.

“I’m not a journalist. I’m a blogger,” Ortega’s claim runs.

But Tom Rosenstiel, director of the American Press Institute, said men like Ortega very likely may meet the legal definition of a journalist. “He doesn’t actually get to decide that,” writes Rosenstiel “You can say you’re a kumquat, and the courts will decide if you walk or talk like a journalist, you will legally be a journalist. You’re talking about someone who conducts interviews, does exposes, breaks news and [is involved in] all the nomenclature of news.” That’s what a journalist does. Anyone engaged in its pursuit should follow its rules.

That’s precisely the point where Tony Ortega jumps ship. He has no interest in the work of journalism apart from some weird obsession with branding himself as some type of former hard-nosed investigative journalist in order to sell his self-plagiarized books.

He speculates repeatedly about all manner of coming calamities, from IRS raids to perp walks. And none of them are true, of course, because none of them are ever true. Tony can make those wild conjectures (while making up even wilder headlines) precisely because he neither holds himself nor is held by others to a journalistic standard.

Tony Ortega is a “journalist” of convenience, as in when it’s convenient to lend him an air of “credibility”. Every other day of the year it’s the same old Tony, and the same old fake news.

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