“Citizen journalism”

I hate, hate, hate the phrase “citizen journalist.” I don’t know what it means. Someone is a journalist or isn’t, and a given bit of writing is or isn’t journalism. Would a “citizen journalist” be like a “citizen soldier,” doing journalism a few weekends every year? Are members of the Journalist Reserve held to a lower standard than regular journalists? If we are to set such standards, does Fox News still get to be considered journalism? What about People magazine?

I dig what Gone Mild says about Blogging and Journalism:

Bloggers who take themselves seriously and consider themselves “citizen journalists” need a reality check. Unless you’re doing the ground level development of sources and documentation, you are playing at journalism.

I have no beef with that because I do develop sources and gather documents. I have spent time talking to sources, and there are people in Congress and in campaigns who take my calls. That makes me a journalist.

And having done that work, I know that it’s serious work, hard work, that deserves to be taken seriously.

This isn’t to take anything away from Tony and j.d.’s points. But Tony is really talking about (and reliably practicing) media criticism, not journalism. Which is a valuable and valid angle, and his explanation of why it’s important is better than what I would say: “If blogs have one major contribution it’s that they help everyone become even more distrustful of the MSM. And distrust isn’t a bad thing, it’s what keeps government officials in check, it’s what keeps your wife from running around like a skank.”

The closest analogy may be to firefighting. Some towns have fire departments with paid staff, others with volunteer staff. But if you talk about “professional firefighters” in front of a volunteer firefighter, you’ll get an earful. Calling a department “professional” implies that a volunteer department is “amateur,” and less skilled. But that’s false, they all work hard and take firefighting very seriously. Whether a journalist is full-time and paid or a hobbyist, the standards are the same, and with care, the quality will be the same.

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