Rushkoff: Tools and platforms don't make journalists

In a recent Neiman Report, Douglas Rushkoff takes a skeptical look at the changes in who is producing news online.  He clearly echoes some of the most common arguments against citizen journalism.

Rushkoff, who was a correspondent for Frontline’s Digital Nation series, charts the decline of media monarchs (“King George II, William Randolph Hearst, or even Rupert Murdoch”), and their replacement by amateurs who think their writing is to be “an unfiltered, pure gestalt of observation and self-expression.” The web, he argues, now prioritizes the individual’s immediate observation.

According to Rushkoff, the “gestalt” isn’t only not journalism, but a dangerous red herring.

…our misguided media revolutionaries are mistaking access to the tools for competency with the skills. Just because a kid now enjoys the typing skill and distribution network once exclusive to a professional journalist doesn’t mean he knows how to research, report or write. It’s as if a teenager who has played Guitar Hero got his hands on a real Stratocaster—and thinks he’s ready for an arena show.

The essay also comments on media ownership (that corporations still profit from individuals writing for free) and that those who have legitimate grievances with citizen-powered media are immediately dismissed as “elitists or Luddites.”

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06 2010

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