The Center for Citizens’ Media and journalism

The Center for Citizens’ Media and journalism

: Harry raises important issues regarding my post yesterday proposing the Center for Citizens’ Media.

There is so much to say about the relationship of “journalism” and “citizens’ media” that I chose not to get into it in my post yesterday (it was late and what I really wanted to do was jump off of Howard Rheingold’s quote — but that’s just an excuse). So let me make a few things clear:

First, citizens’ media is journalism. Not an issue, not an argument. It’s a new kind of journalism but that’s hard to define, for the Jell-O is still warm.

Second, I don’t mean to say that citizen journalists need to learn things from big-media journalists or that they should become just like big-media journalists; I hope not, for it is the diversity of viewpoint and voice in citizens’ media that I treasure.

But I do believe there are tricks of the trade — and yes, Fleet Street Blogger, it’s a trade or a craft, not a profession and certainly not an art or a science — that could be useful to those citizen journalists who would want to learn them and so I see value in having the means to teach them.

I start with practical means of protection, such as libel law, but this extends also to things that empower citizen journalists, like teaching them how to take advantage of the Freedom of Information Act. I see value in the creation of an open, online curriculum sharing useful tricks of the trade.

The fringe benefit: It demystifies the priesthood of the journalist.

Third, I do believe that there will be benefit in bringing together big- and little-media: They need to understand the value each brings to society. They should create links that can lead to better information (that is, it leads to big media reading and quoting the citizens now that we, too, have a press). And, I hope, this will show that most practioners of big- and little-media work hard to do the right thing (the cynical assumption that the big “they” are all biased jerks is just as wrong as the snotty assumption that the “they” of weblogs are just blathering loners). I’m not headed for any Hallmark moment; I hope that big- and little-media still argue and check each other, for there is value in that. But I’d rather see them arguing about substance than snot.

In the end, it can be argued easily that big media would benefit more from all this than citizens’ media, for it would see that this provides a new source of information and diverse viewpoint and it builds a new relationship to the people formerly known as their audience. But I believe everybody can benefit.

I was going to quote Harry’s post on this but it’s too seamless so just go read it. This discussion is just what I was hoping for.

: The other thing I meant to mention: What’s needed to start such a center? Why, of course, funding. If you know anybody…

: UPDATE: Thinking about this, I may have gone overboard separating citizens’ media and journalism because I was agreeing with much of what Harry said.

I disagree with him in part: Citizens’ media is journalism. It need not be like the journalism we have known. But it can and should strive to improve its quality and education and discussion can help that.

  • http://www.e-thePeople.org Michael Weiksner

    Your Center For Citizens’ Media sounds similar to the Collaborative Media Foundation that Rusty Foster is trying to set up.

  • http://www.danwei.org Jeremy Goldkorn

    “But I do believe there are tricks of the trade … that could be useful to those citizen journalists who would want to learn them … I start with practical means of protection, such as libel law, but this extends also to things that empower citizen journalists, like teaching them how to take advantage of the Freedom of Information Act.”
    Judging by most blogs, the most important thing for citizen journalists to learn is that the journalist’s opinion is usually very boring: stuff that happens away from the citizen journalist’s computer is what other people need to know.

  • AST

    About ten years into practicing law, I developed a theory about professions: They originated when people who did jobs that are too slimy or disgusting for everyone else (physicians, dentists and lawyers)decided that, if they were going to poke their fingers into bodily orifices and deal with the sordid details of people’s private lives, they were going to be treated with greater respect and make more money. Of course, lawyers’ main contribution to this was state licensing and review boards.
    Now I keep hearing that journalists don’t consider journalism a profession, because it might infringe on their freedom. But they don’t seem to mind having the rest of the trappings of professions.
    Serious question: How many reporters at the NYTimes and WaPo did not have university training in journalism? How many worked their way up from a first job after high school? What is the current career path to a byline at the Times, when you’re not Jayson Blair?