I am a fan, an advocate, a follower, a producer and an instigator of citizen journalism. Nothing makes me happier than seeing “ordinary” people realize that “freedom of the press” applies to them, too – or seeing “real” journalists recognize that their world is changing for good and, I believe, for the better.
Nevertheless, with so many citizen journalism sites and experiments launching every day — from H20town and My Missourian to “wikitorials” at the Los Angeles Times (which are now temporarily disabled), it’s hard to get too excited about any one enterprise. That is, until I saw Amy Gahran’s announcement of her new venture, “I, Reporter.”
Gahran’s description is far better than I could possibly recount here, but there are two key reasons why I, Reporter may represent a “new phase” of citizen journalism.
First, I, Reporter will not just provide content, but context – it will be a place for real discussion and ideas. Just because it’s called “citizen” journalism doesn’t mean that it can’t be done with a level of professionalism; it must if the practice hopes to grow and gain acceptance.
Second – and more important, in my opinion – I, Reporter is developing a training program, both for budding citizen journalists and professional news organizations alike. According to Gahran, the training program will include “workshops, educational materials, publications, e-learning, mentoring, and more. We’ll also present the voices and expertise of some of our media colleagues as well as exemplary citizen journalists.”
Why is this so significant? Because Gahran is addressing the real questions facing journalism today – not who is a journalist, but what is journalism and how is it being practiced.
In a previous post I said that I could care less who is doing the reporting, I only care about the quality of the news being reported. In other words, I don’t abhor Geraldo because of who he is; I abhor him because he isn’t any good at his job. But I do I respect that Geraldo has every right to call himself a journalist and be a complete moron.
The Constitution guarantees that anyone can be a journalist – but not everyone should. And if you want to pursue journalism, then you should first take the time to learn what that means. I, Reporter just might be a good place to start.