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What Is It With “Citizen Journalism”?

What Is It With “Citizen Journalism”?

You’ve heard about the term, I’m sure. And we’ve published quite a few posts here on the Blog Herald citing the benefits (and pitfalls) of citizen journalism. This is perhaps one oft-cited reason why some personalities from the mainstream media abhor blogs and bloggers. It seems that bloggers–most of whom are not trained in the art and science of reportage–are now encroaching upon the territory of journalists. Sometimes, bloggers are even getting the upper hand.

However, does there really have to be a dichotomy (an antagonistic one at that) between bloggers and journalists? I think not. For one, I know of a handful of professionals from the mainstream media–reporters, editors, columnists, and yes, even those from TV–who have embraced blogging as a medium. Mostly, blogging serves as an alternative platform for them to air their views, when they are unable to in their more traditional publications. Sometimes, traditional media has to sanitize content, and blogs may be the only means to share raw opinion or instant reportage. Or, sometimes they use blogs as sources for leads to stories. This is particularly relevant in the field of technology, where bloggers tend to be the first at learning and publishing new information–particularly when it comes to industry insiders who are bloggers themselves.

Personal blogging

Here’s something strikingly simpler. Some bloggers–including journalists who do blog–just do it for personal reasons. No matter how far blogs have gone in terms of being considered sources of news and commentary, blogs are still first and foremost personal journals.

Andy Merrett wrote recently about how a journalist (or not, depending on how you view tabloid papers) thought of personal blogs.

[Keith Waterhouse’s] disdain for personal blogs which discuss every aspect of family life ad nauseam is clear. That in itself is not particularly unusual, though why he can’t just ignore those blogs if he doesn’t want to read them – as everyone else can – I’m not sure.

So what if millions of blogs out there are personal in nature, and discuss every aspect of family life? That’s the beauty of it. Blogging is the medium, and the writing about personal matters is the application. I do agree that if you’d rather not read about someone’s boyfriend, dog or nasty breakup (with the boyfirend? Or the dog?), then it’s up to you; you don’t have to hate blogs and bloggers in general.

On bloggers, journalists, and journalists who blog

As for the point of view of others in the journalistic profession, here’s something interesting that Joey Alarilla, a journalist friend of mine, writes at CNet.

[J]ournalists and bloggers can learn a lot from each other. We can cooperate. We can even be journalists and blog at the same time, as obviously some of us are doing now. But that doesn’t mean bloggers and journalists are one. We don’t have to be the same. In fact, we may not want to be the same. I think we can recognize and celebrate what makes us different without having to reduce the discussion to a “bloggers vs. journalists” debate.

In the first place, people blog for different reasons. It’s not like all bloggers want to cover the news, or share their opinions on the latest issues. Some want to blog to keep in touch with family and friends, some want to showcase their hobbies and other interests, some want to make people laugh, some want to rant, and some just want to goof off because they’re bored–and what’s wrong with all that? Blogs are powerful tools that allow people to express themselves, including many who have never been given a voice before–in addition to mainstream media. Blogs are tools. We’re free to use them as we wish.

Joey goes on to write that blogging, along with other new media, are perhaps concepts that the old media have yet to figure out how to handle.

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I think the interesting thing we’ll see over the next few years is how the values of old institutions will collide with the realities of New Media and New New Media. I’m not saying we should throw away all our old values; I’m just saying we shouldn’t be blinded by our own prejudices.

Right now, we’re seeing two kinds of responses. One response is apparently Old Media thinking: “Hey, I have these popular columnists or newscasters. I’m sure they’ll also be a hit as bloggers.”

The other is Old Media taking in more bloggers so as to attract new readers, the idea presumably being that the blogger will know what the new audience wants, and that he will bring along loyal readers of his site who otherwise might never have been interested in the publication.

It’s just like the time when print journalists were dismissing TV as a medium for journalism. Now it’s the blogs and bloggers that are being looked down upon by the mainstream, more established media. My advice to fellow bloggers? Relax and carry on with your personal blogging, and even your “citizen journalism.” Maybe a few years down the road, it will be the bloggers who will try to figure out even newer mediums of communication–either looking down upon, or adopting these.

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