By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Citizen-journalism hype

Vin Crosbie says he’s heard enough about citizen journalism — or at least about the fantastical claims that are sometimes made for it:

It’s hard enough to find a professional journalist who can sit through 52 weeks of zoning board hearings and write intelligently about that, nonetheless finding an amateur who doesn’t have a vested interest or axe to grind and who can sit through and objectively write about those hearings….

[D]on’t get me wrong. I think that technologies via which readers can comment, help report, eyewitness, tip off, and otherwise supplement, amplify, or redirect newspaper coverage are absolutely needed. These are tools that every news organization should begin using (oops, I should have used the politically correct phrase: ‘begin sharing’) with people. I applaud and other well conceived applications of this. And I support my friends who are helping to teach citizen journalism to the few citizens who do want to report.

But citizen journalism is a supplement, not a panacea. Citizen journalism itself isn’t going to reverse the declines in news readership, listernership, and viewership. Not by a longshot.

I agree. Citizen journalism is well worth trying, and could definitely be part of the mix that one day revives the news business. But there is nothing that brings more value to the table than reporting by professional journalists. It’s expensive, and there are no shortcuts.

Discover more from Media Nation

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.


Class act


On supporting the troops


  1. Stella

    Citizen journalism, one thinks, was formerly called gossip. Blogs may have a larger cast, but the back fence gabfest has been around for many, many years.

  2. man who prefers radio over newspapers anyway

    We already HAVE citizen journalism, and have had it for years. It’s called “college newspapers”. Many of which I wouldn’t wrap my fish in.Much like citizen journalism, I don’t deny that college newspapers serve a valuable purpose. But that doesn’t mean that I equate The Daily Free Press with The Boston Globe. To quote Samuel L. Jackson: (it) ain’t the same ballpark. It ain’t the same league – it ain’t even the same fuckin’ sport!Really, the bottom line is that unless you’re a professional that’s good enough to get paid (either currently or at some point in your career) to do it for a living…then you’re either not good enough yet, or you’re never going to be good enough.Either way you’re not a professional…and shouldn’t be treated as one.This is true for a lot of things, not just journalism. I don’t want a “citizen doctor” operating on me. Perhaps saving my life with CPR when no doctor is around, but certainly not removing my spleen in a scheduled operation! For that matter, just because any idiot can mow a lawn doesn’t mean I want my yard landscaped by any idiot, either.The unfortunate truth is that “citizen journalism” is, for too many outfits (and more every day) a euphemism for “we can shovel the same crap and pay people less for it”.

  3. Anonymous

    Dan, just how, in some sense, does this “citizen journalism” significantly differ from the cries from the WBZs of the world to ask people to call in when they see something happen? WBZ was doing that a good decade ago.–raj

  4. John Galt

    Problem is, that substantially less than once in a blue moon is anything “published” in the blogosphere that comes from personal knowledge. It is really just another game of Whispers, or Secrets, whichever it is called now. A gasbag’s delight!Everyone is entitled to an opinion, and ought to be allowed to air their thoughts unfettered as long as they aren’t harmful to others.The web is as good a Speaker’s Corner as any.

  5. Aaron Read

    Dan, don’t have access to email at the moment, but check this out.Radio Station KSFR Cries ‘Enough’ — Won’t Quote From Certain News Stories Relying on Unnamed OfficialsOn the surface, this looks like a wonderful thing. I think there has been too much reliance on “unnamed sources” that can (and do) say anything they like. And too much assumption on the media’s part that such sources are anonymous because they’re trying to fight a noble fight from the inside…when in reality they could just as easily be plants from the administration.At the same time, I wonder if this (nascent) movement could further reduce the already-thin gruel of truth trickling out of Washington these days?

  6. Anonymous

    Dan, thanks for finally making a clear statement like this:”But there is nothing that brings more value to the table than reporting by professional journalists. It’s expensive, and there are no shortcuts.”Journalism is expensive and very tricky for regular Joe Shmoes to think that easily supplanting a very well-oiled machine is pretty presumptuous.The beauty of bloggers is they finally give the audience a say and forum and a way to talk back and in the case of some very well-organized blogs, the power to organize and gel, like dKos.Stella, equating them with gossip is quite an unfair stretch. There is quite a bit of gossip in blogging, but also some very good insight, commentary and conversation. It isn’t as dirty as you make it sound.Raj, the diff is that at the end of the tip from people sending info to BZ is that there is an editor who decides whether to pursue and/or publicize.The editorial/ethical trained journalist overseeing the whole flow is the stopgap for garbage and irresponsible ‘speech,’ hence the unavoidable value of traditional newpapers and other media newsrooms.N.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén