Thoughts on Citizen Journalism

Some media analysts contend that citizen journalism is a relatively new movement. Sorry, folks…it’s been around for a long time. Let’s look at this concept in the modern media time frame. Newspapers gave the “common (wo)man” a voice through letters to the editor and guest columns. For years Newsweek magazine has solicited gazillions of manuscripts for their My Turn feature. Top 40 radio stations in the 60s paid their listeners for news tips. TV Stations used to do editorials, usually delievered by the general manager. They often aired opposing viewpoints from the public. Talk radio and TV shows give listeners a “vine”, as Jim Rome calls it, to vent and ask questions. Many websites and now blogs and wikis allow and encourage comments, although you might not now that when looking at this blog! Media outlets are inviting readers to send in community news, videos and photos to be used on their websites.

Web 2.0 has taken the concept of citizen journalism to the next degree. Now the “Average Joe” can spew forth words of wisdom to millions of adoring fans all over the world with blogs, web pages, and social media accounts.

What does it take to be a “citizen journalist“? A pair of eyes or ears, some rudimentary writing skills, and access to a computer. Then just wander about and observe, make notes, pull them together and publish! You might wind up scooping the mainstream media. That’s how Matt Drudge and Wonkette started. They caught on like wildfire and became MSM celebrities.

Here’s an example of how a citizen journalist can make a splash. This actually happened. I was at a Cincinnati Reds game earlier this year. I was in the first row behind the visitors’ dugout. About an hour before the game, one of the “scrubs” on the visiting team walked up the steps to the railing on the back of the dugout and called an older gentleman over. It was his dad. I was just a few feet away so I heard every word. The player was VERY upset about his lack of playing time and was telling his dad about it. Now, I have no idea if the press in the visitors’ town new about his discontent, but I could have posted something about the conversation. I didn’t for a number of reasons, including respect for the player’s privacy. He wasn’t speaking on the record to me, so I would not be true to myself if I posted his comments. It’s unlikely he would ever find out about it, but integrity is what it is. Notice I did not mention the team nor the player’s name. My point was simply that anyone who can observe can publish on the web.

Because of the easy access to the web, public figures have to be very conscious of their actions and words, lest they show up naked in bed with donkey on Flickr or MySpace!

Monday, August 27: Newspaper-Eating Space Aliens Kill Another Well-Known Tabloid!

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