Digital Newsmedia Group Two
The rise of the Internet and the ease of publishing online has led to the development of an online media that has affected the way our society experiences the media more broadly. The idea of "citizen journalism," originally heralded as either the savior or the doom of traditional news media, should be recognized as a much more complex, multi-faceted set of interactions between the "new" media and the "traditional" media. To be sure, some citizen journalism explicitly aims to fill in the gaps its participants perceive in traditional media coverage, by handling everything from coming up with the idea, to investigating it and discovering the facts, to analyzing the raw material, and writing and publishing the piece. But some of the true power of citizen journalism is its enormous set of participants, and indeed in its very diversity of forms. By creating the platform through which traditional news media and the public can easily interact and leverage the other's strong points, online media has the potential to dramatically improve our access to information.
None of this is to deny that several issues exist and remain. The blurring of the lines that has occurred between fact, opinion, news, entertainment, traditional media, participatory media, has resulted in a deluge of information that is difficult to differentiate from each other; whereas once Walter Cronkite was the most trusted man in America, a recent online poll voted a comedian the most trusted news anchor. This melding and meshing creates or emphasizes some serious questions about what the role of the media is or should be, whether the civic function of public information is being served, the way the media affects our relationships with each other, and even whether the search for capital-T Truth does or should remain a priority — and if so, how to encourage and foster it.
Investigative Journalism, or the in-depth, multi-sourced, and original reporting of processes, not events, that are of interest because they are oftentimes secrets that have been uncovered, was traditionally the sole reference when The Freedom of the Press was written in the Bill of Rights.
A Short History of Online Participatory Journalism
- OReilly We Media book and more.
- Public Journalism 2.0
- NYTimes Rosen Article
- Next Newsroom Project
- Nieman Journalism Lab
Working Definitions? Don't want to focus too much on terminology; seems to have moved the debate into less productive territory (see below). Some blurring; increasing numbers of traditionally trained journalists participating in less traditional fora. But see story from China where identified unpopular people and found identifying information on where they live etc.
Citizen Participatory Journalism does not have a concrete definition due to the sheer breadth of the concept. It involves the everyday citizen / the audience in some way or the other - either as a brand new entity or as a part of an existing. By this, it is clear that meer participation by commenting or reviewing existing articles is still considered "Participatory Journalism." However, more commonly, is the writing of blog posts, the submission of photos or videos, or the creation of a new "thread" - articles which further citizens can comment upon, or can be picked up by a top-down news media organization. In either one of these scenarios, the citizen is adding something new, thereby classifying it as "journalism," or indicating a new angle on something else. The mere statement of opinions is not considered participatory journalism because no research of clear points-of-view are expressed.
Many argue as to the standards that citizens journalists are held accountable for. Regular journalistic ethics revolve around diligence in research, non-defamatory articles, accuracy in statements, and relevant news leading to the enhancement of knowledge among citizens. These standards are enforced in top-down news systems by very defined repercussions to the individual and the news agency he/she is a part of. However, with bloggers - these consequences do not exist, and therefore, the journalistic standards, although ideal, are not met many a times. It is very optimistic to simply state that in the future they can be held accountable for these standards, however, there is no method of enforcement with the magnanimity of the current citizen journalism sphere.
- Sense of failure by traditional media
- Financial crisis in traditional media. http://www.ojr.org/ojr/people/stverak/201003/1830/ -- http://www.ourblook.com/The-Media/The-Rise-of-the-Citizen-Journalism.html
- Local newspapers struggling; ensure local news available http://www.ourblook.com/Citizen-Journalism/Kirsten-Johnson-on-Citizen-Journalism.html
Current Focus and Debate
The current debate about the role of participatory journalism and its relationship to traditional media is much more textured and subtle than the "Us Against Them: Will Citizen Journalism Replace Traditional Media?" dialogue that supposedly characterized the attitude of traditional and citizen journalists when it first arose in our consciousness in the early 2000s. There is increased recognition of interactions between the two changing the nature of each, and increasing numbers of traditional journalists and their parent news organizations have embraced new forms of social interaction.
Even recent contributions, however, have occasionally framed the debate as being for or against "citizen journalism," often primarily focusing on the word "journalism," and thus limiting the scope to individuals who self-consciously engage in their own independent journalism without interacting with more traditional news sources.Cite error: Invalid
<ref> tag; refs with no name must have content Much of the "anti" citizen journalism arguments emphasize the training, level of analysis, and social commitment that is necessary to do true, "big-J" journalism.Cite error: Invalid
<ref> tag; refs with no name must have content All of these points are accurate, but hard-hitting investigative journalism has never been the exclusive focus of our media generally, nor even of journalism in particular.Cite error: Invalid
<ref> tag; refs with no name must have content Moreover, even the contemporary view of the role of journalism as serving the value of providing truth to the public is a relatively recent phenomenon.
One strain of criticism of citizen journalism has been that it does not conform to the objectivity norm central to American journalism. But the objectivity standard itself has been questioned; it is not the governing norm in Europe, for example.. Moreover, the media has always encompassed a spectrum from "fact" to "opinion"; both traditional and participatory media fall at various points along the line from "fact" to "opinion." Even if citizen journalism is less "objective," a question on which we take no stand, it may still serve a valuable social function in contributing to the marketplace of ideas. Although "fact" information is extremely socially useful for ensuring that the public is informed and can properly execute civic duties, just because participatory media does not fall directly into that box does not necessarily make it useless.
Given the broader spectrum of the media, then, suggests that the underlying problem may be more of a concern over the label of citizen journalism than any inherent issue about objectivity. If the label is the problem, its potential for harm lies in the extent to which people rely on it. But although the Internet has played an increased role as a news source, much of the content still seems to come from legacy news sources. As far as "objectivity" is concerned, communities of self-styled participatory media may develop norms / codes, either on own or imported from journalism, in order to increase legitimacy and provide value. 
Breakdown and a Rough Taxonomy
Perhaps because its proponents most visibly identify as "journalists" and therein raise the hackles of traditional, trained journalists, much of the normative debate has focused on those sites that allow individuals to act completely as "news gatherers": identifying a story that they think is newsworthy, going out into the world and collecting facts, analyzing those facts, and writing and publishing a story.
|Traditional||Sometimes coming up with an idea and deciding whether newsworth is unnecessary, for example when reactively reporting something big that happened||Newspaper / TV|
Participatory journalism can be seen as special case of Crowdsourcing, but more interesting because both sides self-consciously interact with the other. Where does the benefit of the "crowd" come in? Analogy to law / fact; really in the analysis (mixed question of law and fact) that is key to providing something useful.
Examples demonstrating different paradigms for shifting and sharing responsibilities for different parts of the process
- Commenting on news articles; each participant can then "re-analyze" the facts and make own conclusions
Allows the everyday citizen to submit article "tips"/"ideas" which are then distributed to partnering top-down news organizations. Upon interest from journalists there, the ideas are pitched and funded by citizens on Spot.Us. Represents a way that top-down and bottom-up journalism converge.
- CNN iReport (quite bottom-up, but meshes with top-down)
People can share stories or opinions based on prompts that they create or prompts that are provided. Based on the most votes and what reports are considered the best, CNN uses them on their external platforms like live news and their main news portal. A majority of the topics provided are not at the forefront of pressing events - current topics (12/19/10) include stories of "wintery weather" and "Travel Shots of Mexico."
- Eleven Layers
- Sourcewatch List of Websites
- Sourcewatch wiki page on Citizen Journalism
- OReilly We Media book
- CNN iReport
- Spot.us (crowd funding)
- Six Journalism Startups
- E Pluribus Media
- J Lab
- Citi Media Law
A Closer Look at One Box
Why this box? Interesting because definitely one stage where people do not have to consciously self-identify as participants in the journalism process. Just going to the airport and tweeting to complain, but can be valuable "news" for someone deciding when to leave. What are implications of leveraging information when not necessarily provided for that purpose? Some cross-over with Crowdsourcing?
Potential Problem: Fact Verification / News Creation
Using facts gathered: how do you fact check?
The Huffington Post has a clear description of different Standards of Citizen Journalism which include the identification of the author and all the sources that are used in the writing of this piece. However, oftentimes, these are not adhered to in the case of anonymous blogs and
Limit by news topic; no real reason for anyone to lie about, e.g. lines at Boston Logan or Comcast cable being down, but be wary of exploitation by, e.g., governments without much freedom of press when aware that look to twitter stream for information. To whose benefit is it to cast doubt on integrity of information? Relationship between journalist and source; shift? Implications of lack of personal connection?
Sense of video / pictures as indisputable "fact," but not necessarily true either; at least for a while, allows exploitation, see ACORN scandal.
ACORN Scandal: The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now was "infiltrated" by James O'Keefe - a 25 year old filmmaker. He dressed as a pimp and with a woman nicknamed "Kenya," he approached ACORN individuals asking for housing and advice on continuing a prostitution service. The ACORN individuals readily helped, and the whole scene being secretly videotaped was released on the internet by O'Keefe for the public to view. ACORN as a result had many employees fired and sued O'Keefe for defamation. See Investigation Video for ACORN
Is the solution just for "trusted" news sources not to rely on it? But then how can they compete (see rush to be first).
Taking a Step Back
Stepping away from the specifics of community fact gathering and taking a holistic view of the issue, the problems with participatory journalism and media seem to merge with the problems of the traditional, mainstream media.
Rush to be First
News and Entertainment
No separation of message type vs. "the 6:00 news with So-and-So"
Place for Truth?
Academia: search for truth valued even where no market; sometimes "we" ought to support something even if no market for it Epistemic paralysis: can't remember where things came from because swimming in information
Shared experiences? "Balkanization of media consumption" (Sunstein?) Seal for those willing to open notes? (Lessig)
- See, e.g., http://www.editorsweblog.org/analysis/2005/12/from_citizen_journalism_myth_to_citizen.php; http://www.hypergene.net/blog/weblog.php?id=P327!. But even this angle of the narrative may be oversimplified; consider this article, published in 2003.
- See, e.g., http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2009/01/30/twittering-away-standards-or-tweeting-the-future-of-journalism/.
- See The Journalism of Outrage: Investigative Reporting and Agenda Building in America.
- See http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?article=questioning_journalistic_objectivity
- See id.; http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/pda/2010/nov/01/objectivity-real-citizen-journalism. For more on the history of the objectivity norm, see http://www.une.edu.py/maestriacs/schudson_the_objectiviy_norm_in_american_journalism_journalism_2.2.pdf.
- Professor David Weaver has suggested "citizen communication".
- See, for example, Wikinews and its "neutral point of view."