Guardian column: Networked journalism

My latest Media Guardian column is a roundup of the small sprouts of networked journalism popping up here and there. I must confess that I used Nick Lemann’s essay one last time (I hope) as a convenient lede. (Nonregistration version here.)

The war is over. No, not that war. Or that one. I mean the supposed battle between mainstream media and bloggers. The last shot, a dud, was fired by Nicholas Lemann, dean of Columbia University’s School of Journalism, when he issued an encyclical in the New Yorker this month defending professionalism and decreeing that citizens’ media is just “journalism without journalists”. It was met online with an exasperated yawn from bloggers and (in Roy Greenslade‘s term) hackademics, who said there never really was a fight. Bloggers don’t think they’ll replace reporters, they want to work in symbiotic bliss, amateur alongside professional, complementing each other’s skills to expand the reach of the news. I call this networked journalism and I am seeing more examples of the two tribes coming together not to clash but to conspire.

I cite as examples Charles Johnson outing Reuters fauxtography and Reuters thanking him for it; the bloggers digging into AOL’s data mess first before papers wrote wonderful stories about it; NewAssignment.net; efforts to get thousands of users to test net neutrality; and the Sunlight Foundation’s efforts to recruit citizens to dig into Congressional earmarks.

So networked journalism is about much more than camera-phone pictures of disasters or stars. It can be about digging up news and keeping government honest. I used to call this “citizens’ journalism”, but I recanted when I realised that journalism should be defined not by the person but by the act. Anyone can perform an act of journalism and the more such efforts we have, the more informed our society will be. So I believe we must support our new comrades-at-keyboards with resources, reporting, editing, training and even revenue. In the end, we’re all in this together.

  • http://pjnet.org/weblogs/pjnettoday/archives/001260.html Leonard Witt

    Hi Jeff:

    My public argument: Don’t Kill Off Citizen Journalism

    I like the networked journalism concept, but to me the phrase networked journalism is a cop out, a phrase used to offend no one. Indeed, what offends journalists is anytime the word citizen, public or civic is added to the equation. They whined about public or civic journalism, and now they whine about citizen journalism….

    If we remove the words citizen, public, civic from the equation, it will be too easy to forget that this is about public, civic, citizen participation. This is not just about helping news operations to get a free staff or even developing better coverage, it’s a way of getting an engaged public to help build a bigger, better and stronger democracy.