The four critiques of ‘citizen journalism’

[Keyword: ]. Martin Stabe responds to criticism of the Press Gazette Citizen Journalism awards in the latest issue (including from myself), demonstrating neatly how journalism is becoming more of a ‘dialogue’ as consumers become producers.

He sums up the objections in four areas:

  • Protectionist (“they’re not real journalists, but we are”)
  • Overbroad (“most of it’s not intended to be journalism”)
  • Narrow (“Why only images and video?”)
  • Redundancy (“Journalists are citizens too”)

It seems to me that the debate around the terminology (including the NUJ’s much-ridiculed decision to prefer the term “witness contributors”) is a moot one. Clearly the term has gained currency, however meaningless its constituent parts (yes, we’re all citizens, so that part is redundant; and yes, much of the journalism was never intended to be so).

We could come up with alternative suggestions for years to come, but the essential point is this: people (generally) understand what you mean by ‘citizen journalism’, and it’s nothing to do with its constituent parts – the phrase has taken on a life of its own, and it’s too late to stop it.

Citizen journalism means articles, images, video, audio and interactive media produced by those not employed directly by news organisations to do so. That includes people lucky (or unlucky) enough to be able to take pictures or footage of a major event; it includes bloggers/podcasters/vodcasters writing/broadcasting about their areas of expertise (or not); it includes those writing for citizen journalism projects such as Ohmynews and Bayosphere, whether they publish journalism elsewhere or not; it includes alternative media projects such as IndyMedia; it even, if you want to go this far, includes people writing in to your letters page.

Now let’s get onto the more important question: where’s the good stuff?

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