Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Citizen Journalism's Questionable Potential

Is the power of the Internet strong enough to change journalism?

Erin Rosa published a piece for the Columbia Journalism Review on November 19th titled “New Media, New Opportunities.” Her piece discusses the decline of print and the rise of the web in the sense that it is providing access for a wider array of those who strive to be journalists. She claims that “journalism is becoming a more egalitarian profession,” citing the example of “an unemployed nineteen-year-old using free blogging software [who] can report on the results of a controversial city council vote restructuring Denver’s election bureau and scoop a weathered professional before he even makes it back to the newsroom.” Praising the advent of online reader comments, Rosa concludes that “this new kind of journalism, based on old-fashioned reporting but propelled by public participation and rooted in the inclusive nature of the Web, will continue to thrive as newsmakers begin to see information as less of a commodity and more of a continuing dialog with their audiences.” Her analysis of this new form as presenting new opportunities to journalists is valid, but I think she’s getting a bit confused along the way. She’s presuming that unaffiliated bloggers with no credentials can attain the same level of access as journalists who work for big name news organizations due to the equalization provided by the Web. While citizen journalism is often decried in journalism classes, that doesn’t mean it fully discounts its potential successes and effects. I do feel that Rosa is making a leap to her conclusion that isn’t supported by logic or factual evidence. She’s forgetting her own experience that made it possible for her to get to the place she is today. The Web hasn’t completely changed things yet, or has it?

1 comment:

M. Dery said...

Logically argued; clearly and concisely put. Not sure how citizen journal can "discount" its own successes, but that's a quibble. (Syntactical bug in that sentence?) You nail the question of access, which is an important one, but what I want to know is: how many unemployed 19-year-olds are going to cover their city councils at a moment when every study shows that your average 19-year-old couldn't care less about the news, as a rule. And who's going to pay her to cover city council? Or are her unemployment checks underwriting this high-minded experiment in civic virture? And then there's the question of reportorial skills. Is she going to teach herself how to chase the paper trail---how to rock FOIA, dig into real estate records and court proceedings and the police blotter, all the skills journos used to acquire in the newsroom?