Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Can Citizen Journalism enliven a distracted, de-professionalised media?

Picture at left from here.

In Australia, Murdoch and Fairfax are making their way to some form of transition from the print to digital age with more or less success, and more or less revenue. In Britain, The Guardian makes no bones about what it is about. It's policy is definitely digital. As part of its digital publishing, The Guardian is mixing its stable of traditional journalists with enthusiastic laypeople.  

I am out of love with large sections of the media - print or otherwise - these days.  My trust is given to only a handful of very senior (yes, you can read very old into that!) journalists.

Once upon a long ago, journalism was much like learning a trade.  A university degree was not required.  Some, like my cousin, graduated from being a linotype operator writing about motorbikes for his favourite magazine to real-life journalism and crime reporting.

Getting ink on fingers seemed to be a prerequisite.  Learning was experiential and transmitted - transmitted from those who had gone before.  It seems to me - and I apologise to Networkers who have heard this chant, this plaint before - that our current crop of journalists has only five minute memory and no research skills in spite of having a university degree.  How else to explain the display and promotion of ignorance regarding national affairs that seems to permeate the news stream without correction? How else to explain not being able to see the wood for the trees?  How else to explain the elevation of the unimportant into national catch-cries? And the serious points cast into the darkness of a netherworld never to trouble an intelligence?

'Citizen journalism' can do no more harm than current journalistic standards.  It may well do better.

Besides requiring good memories, hefty diaries, and excellent and deep research skills, I would require a strong community base from the citizen journalist.  Our news is filled with churned out press releases repeating themselves from every quarter - served up to the general public without question and - in many cases - without any alteration.  Journalists go to politicians, corporate and financial players for their 'serious' reporting.  They espouse the cause of celebrity whether it is physically talented sportspeople or vacuous vamps.  Out there in the interaction of real life , community affairs are ignored - except for ambulance, fire engine, and police car chasing.  Oh, I'm sorry. Like the politicians, the journalists are in awe of polls and focus groups and sampling. I must also draw attention to the stentorian  voices of racism, bigotry and populism which promulgate lies and manipulate ignorance.  All this is part of what passes for professional journalism in the second decade of the 21st century.

Some of us can do better than that.

And thank you to the Public Interest Journalism Foundation 
whose latest newsletter contained the link to the article 
which stimulated this rant.

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