Jeff Novich (Planet Jeffro) wrote a piece summarizing the efforts of citizen journalists as “See, Snap, Post.” Don’t bother commenting as it’s a Tumblr blog, and Tumblr blogs are for one-sided conversations. Which means that the only way to respond is to create your own blog post. So David “DigiDave” Cohn did. He summarizes Novich’s opinions about CJ as this:
- It’s trite: “See, snap, post” – there is no depth.
- People are stupid. Or as he diplomatically put it “most people don’t understand the tenets of journalism.” But read that section of his post and you’ll see what he really wants to say is “people are stupid.”
- It’s more about sharing than anything else (see: “see, snap, post”)
- It doesn’t really accomplish anything – certainly not fact-checking the media (see: “See, snap, post”)
- It’s not paid – so the quality is crap.
- Too much bias. It isn’t accountable.
I can’t speak for anyone’s experience but my own. I’ve worked in the media few years and made a few observations that has led to my personal support for citizen journalism. Here’s the uncomfortable fact:
There’s not much difference between a paid journalist and an amateur journalist.
There were a few good journalists in the operations I worked at, but many of them were just as biased (all over the political spectrum) and ill-informed as anyone else. Some didn’t even leave the newsroom and just put together their stories via the police scanner and a couple of phone calls. It was embarrassing to have to correct a news anchor on the pronunciation of Slobodan Milosovic (this was in the late ’90s). The production crew was more informed of the issues than the producers and anchors. The interns and lower level reporters were the only ones who got their facts straight, mostly because they were hungrier.
And that’s how citizen journalists are. The word amateur comes from the Latin amo, which we all mean “love.” Amateur journalists do it for the love of journalism. There’s passion.
Citizen and professional journalists each have roles. A professional journalist has the time and resources to dig deeper into stories. But their handicap is the newsroom bubble. And those in the field rely heavily on the same sources.
It’s a fool’s assumption that professional journalists “understand the tenets of journalism” more than amateurs. I went through the same journalism classes as most reporters, and it was obvious that many were asleep during the lectures. At the same time, I have seen amateurs go into blogging and citizen journalism because they were tired of seeing these “tenets of journalism” falling apart and felt the need to revive them, especially after the extreme consolidation of the media that accelerated with the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (at least on the American side).
I don’t see one side conquering the other but co-existing in a state of information symbiosis. Professionals can concentrate on the in-depth work while citizens explore stories outside the newsroom bubble.