I’m excited about citizen journalism, and most people who live in the little online echo chamber we call the blogosphere are excited about this people-powered evolution of news, too. Get out in the real world, however, and the reaction is guarded. Not as poorly guarded as, say, your typical Iowa or Texas prison facility, but guarded nonetheless.
Public relations professionals and PR students, after hearing me talk about today’s journalism trends and their impact on communications in general, invariably ask the same questions: Where is the business model? Citizen journalism sounds very East Village bohemian and all, but who’s going to be a citizen reporter if there’s no money in it?
Now it is no surprise these questions always comes from people with no journalism background. If they did have a journalism background – like journalist-turned-PR pro Scott Baradell who writes the Media Orchard blog, for example – they would know that looking for money in journalism is like looking for love in a brothel or for WMD’s in Iraq. It sounds promising at first, but in the end you just become another victim of bad intelligence.
I know what you’re saying: “But what about all those journalists I see on television or hear on the radio? They make a lot of money, right?”
Yes, they do, for one of two reasons. They either 1) paid their dues doing the weather in Topeka before making enough to pay full price for their macaroni & cheese dinners, or 2) they are not real journalists, but rather media “personalities” or pundits who use journalism as a cover to hide their real purpose, which is to turn our brains into gelatin and make us believe that thinking for ourselves is another way to let the terrorists win.
Real journalists are more concerned about feeding the world than feeding themselves. Real reporters let others make the news rather than try to become the news. Real journalism requires passion and purpose – qualities that the best citizen journalists have in abundance.
Not all citizen journalism operations will be penniless either. Backfence and Newsvine are funded the old fashioned way, through venture capital. New models are being created all the time, and while most will fail, some will survive and thrive (let’s hope those are the good ones.)
But back to the question of who will stay a citizen journalist if there is no money in it. The answer is simple: The ones who don’t care about the money. The ones who understand that if you do something you love and believe in, the money will find you – you don’t need to look for it.
You don’t get rich from citizen journalism. Citizen journalism enriches you, and that is something money can’t buy.