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Citizen journalism -- Everybody's a Critic
October 11, 2005 3:23 PM   Subscribe

Citizen journalism gets vetted, and the people of Greensboro101 etc. bite back. Should the new outlets emulate old-style papers or to each her own?
posted by Julie (16 comments total)

 
Not to be an elitist here, but some folks just don't write good. er...

Seriously tho, given that most citizen journalists aren't big on critical thinking and more importantly probably don't own a copy of the NYT style guide or Strunk, etc. etc., it would probably be better if they didn't emulate the old form.
There are many advantages to this though, apart from simply avoiding the sort of authority opinion style that seems to have invaded mainstream media.


It does look promising, but I don't know that it will ever become the 'paper of record.'
posted by Smedleyman at 3:56 PM on October 11, 2005


From my own home town (a site that I'm involved in, at least tangentially, so note my self-linkage): Arborupdate grew out of a student's weblog and became a community news source. We have a lot of local policy wonks who post, and it's interesting to see flame wars between planning commission members and city council members.
We try to edit very little, except when a few posters go above and beyond with their derails.
On the other hand, there's always Findlay Sucks.
posted by klangklangston at 4:07 PM on October 11, 2005


And whenever I start feeling like Metafilter's too leftist, I go and check out the local IndieMedia franchise. I don't think I've ever seen someone who's theorizing a conspiracy of water-stealing bureaucrats trying to take their children away taken seriously around here...
posted by klangklangston at 4:08 PM on October 11, 2005


don't own a copy of strunk?

How about the % of actual *paid* journalists who follow it?
posted by wah at 4:37 PM on October 11, 2005


Journalists don't follow Strunk. They (in America) generally follow AP, Chicago, or New York Times style. /pedant
posted by mrgrimm at 4:50 PM on October 11, 2005


Citizen journals less professional than professionally staffed newspapers - film at eleven.

The benefit is in the identification of information, not in its elegant presentation (although sometimes it is) and not necessarily in reliability of a particular writing. The information gets out, gets vetted by other citizens, and then by the "pros." More truth reaches the public more quickly, yet with more noise. The careful consumer of information benefits. Of course many just follow along with sources that reinforce their pre-existing prejudices, and this can be a hard thing to avoid for anyone.
posted by caddis at 5:32 PM on October 11, 2005


Partially because Strunk's a douchebag. But we in journalism programs have to buy (or steal) a copy for class.
posted by klangklangston at 5:32 PM on October 11, 2005


mr. grimm is correct. Strunk is pretty damn outdated and fusty.
posted by Miko at 6:34 PM on October 11, 2005


People need to see 'citizen journalism' as something with its own strengths (fostering public discussion, man-on-the-street relevancy, opinion spreading) and weaknesses (the impracticality of employed people writing about anything except what they think or what's immediately around them, the uneven quality of writing and reporting). It will never supplant professional journalism -- unless professional journalism just dies altogether, which isn't inconceivable with newspapers -- but it can complement it, even prod it.

Reading Indymedia or even OhMyNews is my idea of punishment, but I think they're valuable. And both of those do something very different than the local experiments described in the main link. But none of them do what the best journalistic institutions do, and the question remains whether there are other forms of news production that could, in fact, do that. On this I recall a talk by Eben Moglen on the possibilities offered by a ubiquitously, freely networked world where micropayments were easy to make (yes, easier than PayPal) and had become a normal part of life. In such a society, he proposed that groups would form -- say an editor, a few writers, a videographer, etc. -- and produce content, which others would pay them for. So you'd have professional journalists, but without the middlemen and without money-grubbing owners. (There's a great New Yorker article out now, sadly not on line, about the atrocity that is the Los Angeles Time's ownership.) Perhaps some of these groups would become larger and larger, resembling in structure today's journalistic institutions, but at least that wouldn't be inevitable.

Whether this arrangement would actually work, or end up being better than what we have, is debatable, but it would be fun to see someone try it. Or maybe they have?
posted by Coherence Panda at 6:40 PM on October 11, 2005


you're right about Strunk,
but White's mighty tight
posted by tsarfan at 8:08 PM on October 11, 2005


thanks for the mention. it's helpful when the local newspaper won't do a story on us. ;)

anyway, the big thing i want to say about citizen J is that it's about conversation and community. Journalism has (for the most part in the past) been one-way communication. That's changing. Journalism is a conversation.

i'm willing to answer any questions people might have about Muncie Free Press.

thanks,
kpaul
posted by kpaul at 11:19 AM on October 12, 2005


Journalism has (for the most part in the past) been one-way communication

I'm not sure what 'for the most part' means. But when I worked at a large daily newspaper, I personally answered half a dozen calls a day from readers, asking for less this or more that or correcting errors or once, memorably, outraged because there was a photo of a black person on the front page. Some called just looking for quick information. They wrote letters to the editor, and we published them. They submitted work to short story, best-of, poetry, lifestyle, and talkback columns. They sat on sounding boards and discussed coverage with our editors.
posted by Miko at 1:33 PM on October 12, 2005


Oh yeah, and anyone could submit an op-ed. Op-Eds from local non-journalists were regularly published.

So while I agree with the spirit of what you say, I also think that many people don't like traditional journalism because it's edited. But that's the same reason why many more people (I, for one,) like it. There is a filter there which catches drivel.

Perhaps 'Citizen Journalism' isn't the right term. I'm fine with 'independent media', though newspapers can be independent, as well (less common these days, but not impossible to find). It's just that when citizens publish reporting that is heavily mixed with commentary and politically weighted, and is not in a journal (edited periodical), it's not really journalism.
posted by Miko at 1:36 PM on October 12, 2005


"when citizens publish reporting that is heavily mixed with commentary and politically weighted, and is not in a journal (edited periodical), it's not really journalism."

My point exactly. Although I'm comfortable with the work going on, I'm not thrilled with the amount of work you have to do as a reader to try and decipher what actually happened.


Why not just call it community blog?
posted by Smedleyman at 1:41 PM on October 12, 2005


hence 'the most part' ;)

if you send a letter to the editor it may or may not be printed/edited. if you call into a tv or radio show, you may or may not get the last word, etc.

the web is going to open that communication up a lot more than having citizen editorial boards.

the thing i'm going after will still be edited but by 'professional' journalists and peers.

i'm running Scoop for Muncie Free Press, which should be interesting once the community starts to grow...

-kpaul
posted by kpaul at 1:42 PM on October 12, 2005


if you send a letter to the editor it may or may not be printed/edited. if you call into a tv or radio show, you may or may not get the last word, etc.

Right, that's that editing thing again.

the web is going to open that communication up a lot more than having citizen editorial boards.


Yeah, still, the point being that when it's wide open, there's more dross to wade through, not more high-quality thought. I just don't have time to look through it and try to figure out where the person's coming from. My observation on indymedia outlets so far is that they tend to have more writers than readers.
posted by Miko at 6:20 PM on October 12, 2005


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