Does Journalism 2.0 Need Journalism 1.0?

Posted on July 9, 2007
Filed Under OMG! Old Media is Dying! |

Wired has reprinted a story entitled “Open-Source Journalism: It’s a Lot Tougher Than You Think” which provides some interesting insights into the citizen journalism movement.

There are many Web 2.0 proponents who feel that the efforts of citizen journalism will marginalize the need for professional reporters and news outlets. After all, if we’re completely capable of reporting on the news ourselves and have means of distributing content freely on the Internet, what real need is there for a mainstream press that often does a poor job reporting on the news? Others contend that citizen journalists lack the skills, resources and access necessary to provide anywhere near the coverage necessary to serve as a viable source of news.

The Wired article is particularly intriguing because it’s written by individuals who have given citizen journalism a go in the political arena, which happens to be an area where many feel the mainstream press has failed us.

The authors come to one conclusion: “In short: There was plenty of room for improvement.” As they state:

I want to report news, not PR. I want the powers that be to quiver at my approach, not the other way around. I want to cover the stories that won’t be covered by a tame local press, but I know I’ll get nowhere by going it alone; I need a network to teach me what I need, to support me in these efforts, to look at what I’m doing and tell me where I’m going wrong, to suggest angles worth pursuing.

I want more.

But to go there, I need backup.

In other words, it sounds like they want to be professional reporters.

I am personally intrigued by citizen journalism. I think there is something to it, however being the analytical skeptic that I am, I see three major stumbling blocks to its ability to thrive:

Given these three major challenges, I think it’s going to be difficult for citizen journalism to thrive in its current form. Major efforts will not be consistent and many budding citizen journalists will find themselves piggybacking on the reporting from the mainstream press (just as many bloggers rely on stories reported by the mainstream press for the subjects of their blogs).

I also agree with many of the points Andrew Keene makes “The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture.” We risk a considerable amount when we devalue the work of experts and trained professions in favor of the work of people who may or may not have any ability to produce something of value. By celebrating the demise of newspapers and television news, we’re celebrating the demise of the only entities that may be truly capable of providing quality reporting, holding politicians accountable, etc. While these entities may not always do the job we think they should and can, I don’t think a patchwork of citizen journalists is going to create a better system.

That said, the mainstream press has problems, and I think citizen journalism may be able to help. The mainstream press should look to leverage the most talented citizen journalists. In theory, if done right, this may provide the mainstream press with some cost benefits, while giving the citizen journalists more resources, access and exposure than they have on their own.

Just as I think that Silicon Valley and Hollywood will end up looking more like partners as opposed to foes, I think the world of the mainstream press will eventually come into contact with the world of citizen journalism. And of course, when this happens, a funny thing will take place: the best citizen journalists will become the professional journalists that so many of us take pleasure in marginalizing today.

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6 Responses to “Does Journalism 2.0 Need Journalism 1.0?”

  1. Stanley Miller on July 9th, 2007 7:54 pm

    I was wondering when you would bring up Keen’s book. For those in the Chicago area, Keen will be speaking at the Merchadise Mart tomorrow (07/10)at 11:15 am.

  2. Peter on July 9th, 2007 7:59 pm

    saying ‘the mainstream press has problems’ is like saying ‘the u.s. military in iraq has problems’.

  3. Michael Camilleri on July 9th, 2007 8:23 pm

    In essence the citizen journalist will eventually become the freelance journalist? In which case is this different to what we have now? Or is it the case that we just don’t have freelancers any more?

  4. Drama 2.0 on July 9th, 2007 10:39 pm

    Peter: I have no problems getting my daily news from AP, MSNBC, CNN, etc. I know that when I wake up tomorrow, they’ll have stories about what’s going on in the world. I can’t rely on citizen journalists that way. The challenges the mainstream press faces are significant, but they’re not nearly as difficult as those faced by citizen journalists.

    Michael: the similarities between many citizen journalists and freelance journalists are significant, however once you get paid for your work, a lot of the “extremists” have a problem with it.

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