Citizen journalism, what is it?

Andrew Marr, the BBC’s former political editor, dismissed bloggers and citizen journalism as the “spewings and rantings of very drunk people late at night”. (Guardian Oct 11, 2010).

Marr said: “Most citizen journalism strikes me as nothing to do with journalism at all. A lot of bloggers seem to be socially inadequate, pimpled, single, slightly seedy, bald, cauliflower-nosed young men sitting in their mother’s basements and ranting. They are very angry people, it is fantastic at times but it is not going to replace journalism.”

Is citizen journalism threatening mainstream journalism?

Marr added: “Most of the blogging is too angry and too abusive. Terrible things are said online because they are anonymous. People say things online that they wouldn’t dream of saying in person.”

Is that you, do you say things online for the world to hear or see, that you wouldn’t say in person? Are you braver online? Is citizen journalism, as Marr suggests, about being anonymous, so you can be abusive?

Marr’s successor as political editor, Nick Robinson, has previously criticised the tone and quality of online debate. “It’s a waste of my time,” he said in March this year, adding that the blog’s comments section was frequented by people who had “already made their minds up, to abuse me, to abuse each other, or abuse a politician”.

What about you – did you ‘just’ make your mind up, or did you make it up and express yourself after careful consideration? What do you think, is having your own voice and your say, a waste of time?

Venture capital firm Oak Investment partners didn’t think so when they invested $25million in The Huffington Post, a leading news and opinion site. “This commitment from Oak Investment Partners will allow us to accelerate our growth, with more verticals, more video, more citizen journalism initiatives, more cities for our local editions, and a fund for investigative journalism,” said Arianna Huffington co-founder of The Huffington Post.

Some see The Huffington Post as one example of a citizen journalism model that’s developed on a commercial scale. Is this just another professional journalistic operation masquerading as citizen journalism? What do you think citizen journalism is?

According Bowman and Willis’ 2003 report We Media: How Audiences are Shaping the Future and News Information, citizen journalism is the concept of members of the public “playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information.” Bowman and Willis say: “The intent of this participation is to provide independent, reliable, accurate, wide-ranging and relevant information that a democracy requires.”

Do you know how to be independent, reliable and accurate or can these traits or abilities only be found in a trained journalist?

Mark Glaser, a freelance journalist who frequently writes on new media issues, said in 2006, “The idea behind citizen journalism is that people without professional journalism training can use the tools of modern technology and the global distribution of the Internet to create, augment or fact-check media on their own or in collaboration with others. For example, you might write about a city council meeting on your blog or in an online forum. Or you could fact-check a newspaper article from the mainstream media and point out factual errors or bias on your blog. Or you might snap a digital photo of a newsworthy event happening in your town and post it online. Or you might videotape a similar event and post it on a site such as YouTube.”

Citizen journalism is a specific form of citizen media and content. But is citizen journalism different to community journalism or civic journalism, which are practiced by professional journalists, or collaborative journalism, which is practiced by professional and non-professional journalists working together.

Does this mean that if you become a strong and respected citizen journalist, a professional citizen journalist whose model grows to include working collaboratively with the next door neighbor, that you are no longer a citizen journalist?

What do you think – what is citizen journalism, how can you become involved…do you want to?

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