More potshots from the press

The mainstream media has a short memory of its own sins when it comes to measuring the journalistic value of citizen media:

Citizen journalism can be a wonderful thing. In a news media world that’s ever shrinking, with journalists being asked to do more with less, the voices in newsrooms are fewer. Having community members who are interested in the issues and who have no problem getting involved can provide us with unique perspectives, alternate information and make us think outside the box. These are all good things for journalism and democracy.

But when these citizen journalists hide behind the anonymity the Internet provides it can get really ugly, really quick. Lies and misinformation can spread like wildfire.

I’m not saying that I, or any other journalist, is perfect. We’re certainly not. But we stand by what we write, with our names and contact information handy when our imperfections come out.

Here’s a short and incomplete list of how members of the mainstream media has failed to live up to expectations:

Stephen Glass..
Janet Cooke.
Jayson Blair.
Exploding GM pickup trucks.

Not a citizen journalist in the bunch.

An interesting discussion of citizen journalism

This article is about how to use and credit photos and images gleaned from Facebook and Twitter, but it touches on the ethical responsibilities of citizen journalists:

When news breaks, many media organizations turn to social media to find members of the public who become a reporter’s eyes and ears on the ground.

Collecting information in this way has many challenges – for example, verifying that a photo posted on Twitter is real. The key to solving these challenges is holding contributions from citizen journalists to the same ethical standards as work by professional journalists.

That was the main focus of a SXSW Interactive session by Associated Press social media editor Eric Carvin and Digital First Media managing editor Mandy Jenkins.

“If you don’t hold citizen journalists to the same standards, you are disrespecting social media as a tool for journalism,” Carvin said. Figuring out the best way to apply those standards is the hard part.


I sometimes can give the impression that all bets are off when it comes to citizen journalism, or “people powered media.” Not true. We aren’t as constrained as the corporate media, but we have some ethical considerations.