Making “Journalist Citizens” – Journalists, Institutions Should Heed Gillmor’s Call for Fostering Citizen Media

Dan Gillmor, one of citizen journalism’s “founding fathers,” is again breaking new ground by starting a nonprofit Center for Citizen Media. He says the Center’s goals “are to study, encourage and help enable the emergent grassroots media sphere, with a major focus on citizen journalism,” as well as to “foster a truly informed citizenry.”

These are noble and welcome intentions. But there is another aspect to Gillmor’s initiative that is just as vital – something beyond getting the public involved, engaged and inspired to be part of the evolution of news. And that is convincing journalists to evolve as well.

“Journalist Citizens”
Mainstream (professional) journalists also need to be citizen journalists. Ideas and participation need to come from the “edge-in,” as Gillmor says, but also from the “center-out.” Citizen journalists need to be more than real-time letter writers, and mainstream journalists need to look at news as something that is shared, not owned.

Or to put it another way, there should be no line between where the journalist ends and the “citizen” begins. Let this be the beginning of the age of the Journalist Citizen.

This is easier said than done. Too many in today’s working news media are a lost cause, preferring to stand by the devil they know and demonize the future of news as led by a horde of blathering bloggers in bathrobes.

But the future cannot be attenuated. A new generation of journalists is seeing to that.

This is a generation that is in journalism school right now or about to be, a generation that looks at the audience as partners – as fellow reporters with a common purpose. A generation who are to modern media tools what fish are to water.

Gillmor gets this (of course) – his Center will work with the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. But other top institutions – especially journalism schools – should get involved with Gillmor’s center, too.

Make Way for Journalists Who “Get It”
At schools like Kansas, Kennesaw State University in Georgia, and the Missouri School of Journalism, students are learning about and practicing citizen journalism every day.

Kansas’ “EHub” experiments with blogging and video podcasting. Kennesaw’s Public Journalism Network (PjNET) — run by Leonard Witt, another modern journalism innovator – is “a global professional association of journalists and educators interested in exploring and strengthening the relationship between journalism and democracy,” according to its charter. “We believe Democracy benefits when journalists listen to the people,” the charter states.

Missouri’s online MyMissourian is run by student journalists but publishes citizen-produced stories, photos and commentary – content that is equal to the traditional print Columbia Missourian coverage rather than supplementary. And Missouri’s Reynolds Journalism Institute will focus on "advanced studies of journalism and its role in democratic societies."

We need more experiments and institutes like these to create a journalism that is relevant, engaging, and empowering – a journalism without cowardice or fear of its own future.

Not all citizens will or should be journalists. But all journalists must be good citizens for journalism, and Democracy, to survive.







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6 Responses to Making “Journalist Citizens” – Journalists, Institutions Should Heed Gillmor’s Call for Fostering Citizen Media

  1. Kami Huyse says:

    I like this idea, but my one concern is for objectivity. How will it be preserved? I think it is a small thing, but the blogosphere is full of pundits and opinions. The space demands it.

  2. Kami Huyse says:

    I like this idea, but my one concern is for objectivity. How will it be preserved? I think it is a small thing, but the blogosphere is full of pundits and opinions. The space demands it.

  3. This is quite insightful. There is no doubt that journalism is in a decline of quality. There is tremendous QUANITY.
    What is a great concern of mine is if blogging becomes so institutionalized and formalized it will be no better than UPI and Assoicated Press and so forth.
    The big guys are plutocrats cashing their chips in for access to our corrupt presidents, not just George W. Bush.
    My hat goes off to those who lay it on the line as duty and service not just to make money and you could do that also.
    PEACE
    David Nollmeyer

  4. An Objective Press is Job Security for PR

    ary Goldhammer of Below the Fold makes the point that:
    “There should be no line between where the journalist ends and the ‘citizen’ begins.”
    My concern is that in blurring this line do we also blur objectivity?
    This may not seem important, but…

  5. Kami and David, good thoughts and thanks for furthering the discussion. Kami, I posted my thoughts about objectivity on your blog but wanted to add them here as well.
    As I said to you on Communication Overtones, I don’t think we lose objectivity when journalists act like citizens — being a “journalist citizen” doesn’t mean the journalist forgets all he or she learned about reporting, fact checking, etc. It just means the journalist is in tune with the public, its needs for information and for how “regular people” prefer to communicate. It makes for better reporting, not reporting that is less accurate or fair.
    Objectivity is not the same as trust. I don’t expect journalists to be objective, but I do expect them to be honest and trustworthy. That’s what being a good reporter — and a good citizen — is all about.

  6. Center for Citizen Media – Coming Soon

    Dan Gillmor writes at The Bayosphere:
    Starting in 2006, Ill be putting together a nonprofit Center for Citizen Media. The goals are to study, encourage and help enable the emergent grassroots media sphere, with a major focus on citizen journalis…

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