Thursday, July 9, 2009 Citizen journalism

Here's the latest installment of Elizabeth Voss' series on the "new" media. This one is focused on the citizen journalists (read free or almost free writers) now working at The Oakland Press.

She used a quote or two from me at the end.


Anonymous said...

This is really scary. Thanks for speaking up, Jim, because we don't know, for instance, where this woman's loyalties, political bias, vested interests like her children, her finances, her friends, her favorite and least favorite teachers, administrators, coaches, board members etc., are.

"Angela Korn, a Rochester Hills physical therapist with a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Michigan, has been covering Rochester Community Schools for the print edition since January, contributing about 12 to 16 hours a month. The mother of a college student and a high school student has been actively involved in the district for many years."

Is she really covering the school? Is she protecting it? Does she have a score to settle? Has she run for school board, been on the PTA, married to someone with a job with the district? We don't know and therefore she can't be trusted. Way to go Oakland Press.

Jim of L-Town said...

I noticed that example too, but wanted to give the readers a chance to comment on it, as you have.

That was exactly my point: I'm not questioning that there are good writers out there, but how will readers know if say resident Jim Smith who is covering fairly a meeting in his township, or whether he is looking to gain favor with his township supervisor with positive coverage.

Just sayin'

Tom Gantert said...

This is Tom Gantert. I'm a reporter at The Ann Arbor News. I posted my rebuttal to Tony Dearing's take on citizen journalism at I'd like to post it here as the won't run it for some reason. It's been 2 day and it's not run.
Is it okay to post it here?

Jim of L-Town said...


Post away.....I'll be happy to put it up. I may put it up as a post after I see it.

truthiness said...

Notice that newsgathering and writing can be achieved by low- or no-paid citizen journalists but "content directors" must be full-time, paid positions? I guess if I were Dearing, I wouldn't want to post opposing viewpoints on such a contentious issue either.

Tom Gantert said...

This was the post I submitted to Tony Dearing's post on citizen journalism.

"I find it humorous that Arianna Huffington is the one giving the tutorial on "citizen journalism." She runs Huffington Post and has made her website on the backs of free contributors. It's been reported (by "citizen journalists", I presume because it's on blogs and not traditional news sites) that she doesn't pay the bloggers that write for Huffington Post. To her, citizen journalists means more "free" contributors. It's a great business plan if you can get the "citizen journalists" to go along with it.
And just what is the definition of journalist? We know NOTHING of the people in Iran who posted the dramatic video. But Huffington Post, and now Tony Dearing, are calling them journalists. It seems to qualify by those standards, just be in the right spot with a camera and presto - you got your credentials to the White House press conference. It cheapens the definition of "journalist" if that really matters anymore.
As a reporter at the Ann Arbor News (at least for two more weeks), I can point to some very good "citizen journalists." Doug Cowherd of the Sierra Club. Karen Sidney, a local accountant. But I never called them "citizen journalists." I called them "sources." And damn good ones.
So if I were a "citizen" journalist, why would I post to Huffington Post and not get a dime?
It's one thing to trumpet the courage of ordinary citizens as heroes for showing what was going on in a country that had barred "traditional journalists" (also known as "unemployed journalists"). It's another to exploit them as part of a business plan as Arianna apparently plans. Look at all the websites and news organizations who profited from the "citizen journalists" in Iran .. and not one of them was the journalists everybody is pointing to as this growing fad. Simply put, TRUE citizen journalists have been around for decades.
They were the high school statistician that tracked football results for 20 years that we called. They were Dennis Kahlbaum, who loves weather like its paying his mortgage. And Jim Mogensen, who has spent more time at municipal meetings than I could stand. Tony? We need to understand what? We've been talking to these people for years. Those are your citizen journalists.
How come we never hear of "citizen editors?"

Ellie said...

I agree with Tom.
Perhaps the most importat lesson a journalist learns in his very first class in J school is the difference between fact and opinion, and the necessity of attribution for the latter. The reader shouldn't have to worry about the reporter's personal politics if he can stick with news instead of commentary. Commentary certainly has its place, and should be labled as such. A well informed citizen doesn't get that way by consuming a media diet of commentary, exclusively.

truthiness said...

Tom is absolutely right.

Just asking said...

Are Elizabeth Voss and Jim Smith former Oakland Press employees?
How will readers know if they are raising legitimate concerns over the changing face of journalism in the electronic age, or merely grinding an ax or two? We don't know and therefore they can't be trusted. No way to go.

Jim of L-Town said...

Well, I can only confirm that I was an Oakland Press reporter from 1984-1989.

Do I have an ax to grind? You betcha. But I also have a lot of inside knowledge of the place.

I was called and asked for a quote based on my experience. I did not write the piece, so the analogy is way, way off.

You'll have to ask Elizabeth if she worked at the Oakland Press, I don't think so, but I simply don't know.