Friday, September 21, 2007

What's Citizen Journalism?

What is a "citizen journalist"? Apparently, I'm a citizen journalist, although, I prefer "underground journalist", "guerrilla journalista", " grass-root journalist", or just "blogger". I've been asked to speak on the topic at a conference, discuss the format with a college composition class, and have been mentioned by name (not comoprozac) in meetings at the J-school. Whatever it is, it must be something that people are talking about.

I actually resent being referred to as a "citizen journalist". First of all, aren't all journalists supposed to be citizens? If you're not a citizen, then you're a foreigner or outsider. If you're not part of the community, how can we trust what you're telling us? How can citizens trust that outsiders will keep their government in check? The idea that bloggers are one of the few forms of journalism that come from the community is either naive or disturbing...or a little of both.

What's funny is that real journalists (or even journalists-in-training) are threatened by what bloggers do. We're taking their jobs or at least their audience. I had a J-school student all but sp
it in my face when she learned what I do in my free time. Don't feel so threatened. Do something about it. Report the perspectives of your readers, not your editor or even your own. This student may hate bloggers, but I hate the corporate-controlled effluence which spews from journalists mouths and is presented as "news". Report the perspectives of your readers and make connections that hold officials and the government accountable.

The second thing that bothers me is being called a "journalist" of any kind. I have never once referred to myself as a "journalist" (except when I was writing record reviews for my high school newspaper). I once toyed with the idea of journalism and attending the J-school at Ohio University, but that dream died a long time ago. I decided that I could be a more effective agent of change in classrooms than writing "fair and balanced" stories for a newspaper. Additionally, the Missourian asked me to print my work. I have never submitted a piece for print in any newspaper.

I was trying to figure out what developments in education are similar to "citizen journalism". The only thing I could think of in schooling that purports to provide the same service as teachers is homeschooling. Parents who homeschool, or "citizen teachers", are often disheartened by the incompetence of the public school system in their community, so they take matters into their own hands. I am not entirely against this idea. Like my brother-in-law says, "I think kids should be homeschooled, and they should go to school." As an educator, I am not threatened by homeschooling, but I feel that many journalists are threatened by blogging.

The fact is that many bloggers read and support newspapers. I read the Times every Sunday and check the lead stories online throughout the week. At least one or two of my readers is a journalist. Hell, I play hoops in the basement of the Tribune. I would bet that a higher percentage of bloggers read the newspaper than the average citizen.

Whatever. I will continue my brand of "journalism" and you can continue yours. No one is reading either, because no one reads anymore. There's the real problem...that and Fox "News".

This so-called "citizen journalism" is here to stay. We bloggers are not reporting the news. We just want a record of our perspective. We want to see that what we think or say has some meaning beyond our own homes. So, all you "real" journalists relax. You can hold public figures accountable, and bloggers will hold you accountable.


ATR said...

I've always considered myself a "citizen citizen." Occasionally, I feel like "professional citizens" want to spit in my face, so I can relate to your episode with the journalism student. Except, a "student journalist" is not a "professional journalist." Which makes her ire a bit less understandable. Unless she was practicing "professional journalist" etiquette.
It's all really kind of silly; especially considering we're all amateur human beings.

comoprozac said...

True that. She was actually a grad student, me thinks.

I asked R, "professional rhetoritian", if I would be called a "citizen rhetorician" whenever I argue with someone. She replied, "You'd be a 'citizen asshole'."

iLLiaC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
iLLiaC said...

you may be interested in journalist dan gillmor's book we the media, a fairly good overview of the rise of citizen journalism abetted by blogs, mobile devices, and related technologies:>