J-School: Educating Independent Journalists

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Archive for July, 2006

“Actually Existing” Citizen Journalism Projects and Typologies: Part I

Posted by chanders on July 31, 2006

[This is a draft of something bigger, so reader feedback is highly appreciated.]

With all the buzz abut Jay Rosen’s latest brainstorm, New Assignment.net, I thought it might be useful to take a step back and typologize some of the citizen’s journalism projects that have either existed in the past and continue to exist today. There have already been some overviews of the types of CJ projects that could exist, along with some examples that flesh out the speculations, but it still might be interesting to look at what has existed, starting from the "beginning," more or less. Here goes:

I. The "personal" homepage.

The very first example of anything remotely approaching "citizen’s journalism" that I can remember. Having started college in the mid-1990’s, the technologically advanced amongst us soon had our own "homepages," provided to us on our school server space, which served as bulletin boards, rant space, and occasionally helped launch interesting personal and group projects. Some of the personal homepages linked to other web pages but there was very little political commentary on the early sites I remember: they were, indeed, personal web pages.

That’s why I’d argue that the real forerunner of the homepage (and the great grand-daddy of the blog, since I also argue that the blog is descended from the homepage, below) is the ‘zine. Many of the people who started homepages originally got their start in the DIY media world with ‘zines: small-circulation, often intensely personal, usually photocopied publications that exploded onto the high-school and college scene with the advent of cheap laser printing and photocopy services in the late 1970’s. Even with the explosion in blogging and other online media forms, zines are still around.

Drawbacks: Updating these sites was time consuming and took a bit of technological skill: you had to know html, for starters. Consequently, updates were (relatively) rare. I don’t recall there been very much two-way communication besides email; basically, the equivalent of a digital "letter to the editor."

At the same time, however, these sites were some of the first digital forms that got people used to the entire notion of "putting themselves online." And because they were harder to update, they were actually a lot more graphically interesting than a many of weblogs we see today. They more resembled traditional print magazines in that sense as well.

II. Indymedia

People often forget that Indymedia emerged in 1999– which, while only 7 years ago, is a generation when it comes to digital media forms (blogs, for instance, can be said to be about 3 or 4 years old, at least in their current form). The very first IMC was created in Seattle in November 1999, and broadcast photos, text, and video from the the WTO protests to the entire world. Soon, Indymedia sites began popping up in cities ahead of the large anti-globalization protests that were then sweeping the globe, and eventually, some cities decided that they wanted "permanent" IMC’s.

The fact that Indymedia was dedicated to providing "real-time" information to readers as part of a larger anti-capitalist movement had several major consequences regarding its relationship to traditional journalism. First, the relaying of specific information from "newsworthy" events immedately brought Indymedia into a closer relationship with journalistic activity (the fact that IMC’s were often, in their early days, doing a much better job of covering these protests than the mainstream media only added to the challenge. Second, Indymedia was grounded in a larger, much more radical critique of the corporate (and, I argue, the professional) press than many of the "citizen journalism" projects that came before it, or after it. While today we hear that most "bloggers don’t want to replace" the mainstream media, I thin its arguable that many IMC’s did want to do just that. Third, while we can trace personal homepages back to ‘zine form, IMC journalism is more directly linkable to the tradition of "alternative media" and "alt. journalism" that has existed for hundreds of years, ever since the start of journalism itself. This puts it far outside the mainstream, even in the American blogging world in the U.S., blogging’s political contours fall roughly within the spectrum of allowable political opinion as set by the domestic party apparatus, though concentrated at the fringes of this apparatus.There aren’t many openly anti-capitalist bloggers in the U.S., for instance, which may party explain why Indymedia is linked to much more frequently from blogs in other parts of the world than by bloggers in the states.)

Fourth, there were several technical developments that allowed Indymedia to thrive. The most important was the creation of "active", the codebase that allowed anyone who wanted to to upload media to an IMC website. This obviously marked a dramatic improvement over the old "homepage" method of uploading content. There were also technological advances in digital journalism equipment, like cheap digital photography, for example. Finally, though, I’d argue that the existence of a powerful global protest movement did more to spur Indymedia on than any developments in technology.

III. Blogs

This is where many histories of citizen journalism start, with the emergence of the "blogging" movement, whose biggest growth occurred roughly between the attack on the World Trade Center and the 2004 U.S. Presidential election. Once again, we see the combination of a new technology– widely available, commercially produced blogging software– and a political moment– post 9/11 turmoil creating a new media form.

Blogging would become a shorthand term for much of the grassroots media and journalism work that has occurred since 2002, and as such, the term has become confused almost to the point of uselessness. At the same time, however, we must acknowledge that the notion of blogging "as journalism" has gained a cultural acceptance that has so far eluded previous digital media forms, like Indymedia, or successive media forms, like hyperlocal citizens media. Why might this be? Several explanations spring to mind: first, as already noted, blogs posed much less of an existential threat to traditional journalism than either Indymedia or hyper-local journalism; second, popular blogs  fell within the range of normal American political discourse, and, relatedly, bloggers were often seen as a rational and semi-respectable breed (and included some notable current and former journalists in their ranks); and, finally, there was a surge in the sheer number of blogs out there, a surge that was difficult to ignore.

In general, we can note three previous media forms that would intersect with and help create the blogging movement: the  ‘zine subculture; a largely de-radicalized variation of  Indymedia "citizens reporting" practices; and a form of punditry / commentary. The majority of blogs, as the much-discussed recent Pew Survey notes, resemble zines in their personal focus and small readership. At the same time, many of the most popular and referenced blogs practice punditry or political organizing. The second stream, so-called "citizens reporting" seems to have taken a winding journey from the world of small-scale, hyper-local journalism to the world of networked journalism.

We’ll continue this journey in the second part of this analysis, looking at hyperlocal citizens journalism, "big-media" citizens journalism, and networked journalism.

Continue with Part II

I’ve decided to add a little more of a personal touch to this blog: at the end of my posts, I’ll tell folks what song(s) were playing on my iTunes while I wrote it.

Currently playing: (appropriately enough) "DIY" (Peter Gabriel) from Peter Gabriel 2 (Scratch)

When things get so big, I don’t trust them at all,
You want some control, you’ve got to keep it small.

Posted in Projects: Random Musings | 7 Comments »

Journalism Without the Media? The Norg Notion Goes One Step Further

Posted by chanders on July 26, 2006

So, it appears that at least a few of the rumblings in the online journalism world I was hearing a couple weeks ago have actually turned into a new, experimental, institutionally funded model for how to take the NORG concept to the next step. Jay Rosen calls it New Assignment, and it has the potential to be revolutionary. Or fail completely. But its exciting, no matter what happens.

Basically, the outline is this, though I encourage everyone to read the Press Think entry on this to get the full scoop. There’s a lot I’m leaving out:

In simplest terms, a way to fund high-quality, original reporting, in any medium, through donations to a non-profit called NewAssignment.Net.

The site uses open source methods to develop good assignments and help bring them to completion; it employs professional journalists to carry the project home and set high standards so the work holds up. There are accountability and reputation systems built in that should make the system reliable. The betting is that (some) people will donate to works they can see are going to be great because the open source methods allow for that glimpse ahead.

In short, rather than mashing up the funder, citizen, and journalist all in one person (as the Internet has been doing, by and large) New Assignment  separates them again but networks them: the funder supplies the capital; the citizens do the early, often time-consuming legwork that a journalist couldn’t do alone; and the journalist "does the story," with help from the audience.

The usual crew has been responding to this, and quickly too! Rather than link them here I’d encourage you, once again, to check out the "Aftermater" on the Press Think blog, which sums up the discussion so far, as well as the comments. Surprisingly, at least to me, there have been a lot of doubters so far, too.

I have a few of my own questions too, a few on the practical end, the more interesting ones on the theoretical end:

— How "open" is open source? I.e., will the results of the journalistic investigations be available to everyone? Or in other words, will the people who made the capital investment get any freebies, either early access, permanent, restricted access, etc? I especially think the last set up would be a pretty serious violation of the spirit of the web, which is why I can’t see it happening. Nevertheless, the question of who would get the final product, and how, was left somewhat nebulous in the original write-up?

–How would this translate to the local level? (some of the Philly NORGS folks are asking this too.) In other words, for hyper-local but still politically relevant stories, would there be a large enough donor base to make the concept fly, or would you need to depend on a more geographically dispersed "community of interest? Will Bunch rephrased my question: "Who would you investigate for $10,000?"

–Costs. Will funding these types of projects be out of reach for the people whose needs and views are most often ignored by the press today, that is, poor people? Will these be different pricing tiers, will foundations, politicians, and universities have to pay more, etc?

–But probably my biggest question is this: after the reporter is hired and the story is green-lighted, what is the role of the community then? Jay mentions a few times that reporters or editors "also continue to collaborate with the network that birthed; the piece. Then they report back to the people who started the ball rolling, with answers to their questions and a lot more they uncovered."

How open source, then, is the actual reporting process itself? Or are there just some reportorial tasks that can’t be open-sourced? Are we giving up the idea that "everyone can be a journalist," and replacing it with "everyone can be an assignment editor?" Don’t get me wrong: I still think that’s a major step forward, and anyone who has spent a few hours in a newspaper editorial meeting nows how key this role actually is. But the plan still is, as Jay himself admits multiple times, a fairly traditional one. Andrew Cline at Rhetorica nails it, I think, when he writes that "today marks the official separation, or distinction, of two terms (now two concepts): citizen journalism and networked journalism… Whereas networked journalism is a collaboration between citizens and professionals, citizen journalism is, or should now be considered, those efforts by the public to create their own journalism." Are these ideas really distinguishable? How? Normatively, is one more "valuable" than the other?

A reader in the Attytood blog asks something similar: "Will, your approach is top-down and typical of large media thinking. Much of the best research and activism in the blogsphere is spontaneous, in response to events, rather than being a result of someone setting out to find something."

One or two more random thoughts. First, I wonder how much of this idea grew out of the sad failure of Dan Gilmor’s Bayosphere project. That was, arguably, a new journalistic model that was purer than the model we see here. Are we starting to learn from our mistakes, what works and what doesn’t?

Finally, its interesting to see how much parts of this project– in spirit if not in form– resemble the original, in-person notion of "public journalism" as it was developed in the late 1980’s.  Public journalists argued  journalism had a special responsibility towards the public sphere, a responsibility that required viewing citizens as active members of civil society rather than as simply passive consumers of news, a responsibility that often involved, in practice, facilitating local “citizen dialogs” in order to better integrate this active citizenship perspective into the daily reporting of this news. To paraphrase Michael Schudson, the traditional PJ model still viewed journalists as the key actors in the entire affair: they sought the public’s advice, but the ultimate journalistic act was still theirs.

Its going to be exciting to watch this experiement develop. Ah, the Internet. How does one write about it? Everytime you rest for just a moment, the whole thing changes…

Posted in Personal Musings | Leave a Comment »

Lebanon’s Agony

Posted by chanders on July 24, 2006

For folks who care about such things, here’s a copy of the front page editorial I wrote in the latest issue of the Indypendent

Within hours of the launch of the Israeli bombardment of Lebanon,
the photos of dead Lebanese raced across the Internet. Shot by AP
photographers and released by Hanady Salman of the As- Safir newspaper
in Beirut, they are heart wrenching and stomach churning. Children’s
blackened bodies lie in the wreckage of a burned-out jeep (see
centerfold). A man with a blossom of blood running down his face
staggers out of rubble. An eight-year-old girl is roughly lifted up by
her ankles, her lifeless head hanging limply and her small mouth
partially open.

The Western press, of course, largely ignored these photographs – a
few of the less-graphic photos released by Salman were used in
Newsweek, the New York Times and the New York Post. The mainstream
media preferred instead to focus on the damaged buildings, action shots
of the Israeli military or shrouded bodies of the dead.

Publishing a few photographs of injured or dead Lebanese does little
to break through the narrative that conditions the public to accept the
war as reasonable: Myths that Israel is responding to terrorism; the
toll is similar on both sides; and Israel and Hezbollah are military
equals, exchanging blows daily.

The press tends to show as little death as it can — whether in
Lebanon, Gaza or Iraq. The photos on the front page of the July 17
edition of the New York Times are typical: above the fold were scenes
of Israeli corpses covered in white sheeting. Partly below the fold was
a photo captioned, “A night of bombing produced rubble in a
neighborhood that is a Hezbollah stronghold.” A Lebanese man stares at
the wreckage. The Lebanese, it seems, simply lose their homes, while
Israelis lose their lives.

Despite the disproportionate numbers – at least 20 times as many
Lebanese civilians have died as Israeli ones – the reporting and
visuals strain for “balance.” The dominant photo inside the Times on
July 17 was of an Israeli family grieving over the death of a family
member in Haifa. The next day’s paper featured a collage of sobbing
families from “all sides” of the conflict.

Images are most powerful in the heat of battle. If the media were
publishing more of the readily available photos of blown-up and
incinerated Lebanese children, then the outcry could help force an end
to the bombings. After all, it was the endless repetition of images of
a naked child, screaming and running after being burned by napalm and
the summary execution of a Vietnamese prisoner during the Tet offensive
that helped solidify opposition to the war.

It is easy for Americans to marvel at this “endless cycle of
violence” engulfing the Middle East. We should remember, however, that
Osama bin Laden himself watched the 1982 bombing of Lebanon and first
conceived his plans to demolish American towers. “While I was looking
at these destroyed towers in Lebanon,” he said in 2004, “it sparked in
my mind that the tyrant should be punished with the same and that we
should destroy towers in America, so that it tastes what we taste and
would so be deterred from killing our children and women.”

If destruction visits the shores of the United States again, we must
never be able to ask, with our uniquely American innocence – “why do
they hate us?” They hate us, in part, because we close our eyes.

You can read more stories from the Indypendent <a href=here.

Posted in Current Affairs | Leave a Comment »

Does it Matter What Bloggers “Do?”

Posted by chanders on July 20, 2006

The easy answer, is, "of course it does." And indeed, it would be foolish to say otherwise. Nevertheless, I still argue that "of course it matters what bloggers do" is an easy answer, and that there are things that matter as much, if not more.

OK, so I started this post in the middle of my train of thought. Lets back up to the beginning. The most recent Pew Poll, "Bloggers: A Portrait of the Internet’s New Storytellers", merited mention in a number of blogs in my blogroll– Buzzmachine, CJR Daily, Cyberjournalist , Dan Gilmor’s blogThe Editors Weblog, and the Beltway Blogroll— as well as an article in the New York Times. The Times sums up the report  as a "study of the blogosphere," relying on two telephone surveys that asked a representative sample of bloggers about what they do online and what they think about what they do.  Much of the reaction to the report is framed in terms of "bloggers don’t do what we always thought they did– they don’t see themselves as journalists, and they don’t do journalism, either in a formal or informal sense." The Editors Weblog sums it up this way:

US: Most bloggers don’t consider themselves journalists– We’ve been hoping for some time that the "bloggers vs. journalists" debate would just go away. We finally may have reached that point. A report done by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 66% of people maintaining blogs don’t label their acts as journalism. The other 34% considered their blogging as journalism because they engage in journalistic functions like fact-checking and linking to sources.

Or, as the Washington Post put it on the front page of its website: "’The average blogger is a 14-year-old girl writing about her cat,’ said Alexander Halavais, an assistant professor of interactive communications at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut."

Behind all of this there seems to be a general sense of relief: "At last! Data! Hard numbers through which we might glimpse reality rather than endlessly engage in speculation!" I must admit to some sympathy with this perspective– after all, one of the vices of the (quasi) social scientist is a love of a cold, hard "social facts." But this is only part of the story, and the results of the survey represent only one facet of how the importance of blogs and bloggers get figured out by society. In fact, I’d go so far as to argue that the release of this survey itself — and the way it has been picked up, filtered, and discussed by bloggers, academics, and the mainstream press– is far more important than the data in the actual survey. Blogs and bloggers acquire meaning through social processes, of which "social facts" form only a small part.

Here’s what I mean: while what bloggers do matters, what bloggers think about what they do matters more, and what other powerful, reality framing institutions think about blogs matters just as much, if not more, than any of them. In other words, as long as mainstream journalism continues to primarily discuss blogs in terms of their journalistic content, it won’t matter that  only 34% of bloggers think of themselves as journalists (and actually, as an aside, that seems like quite a lot). Rather, the social perception of bloggers as journalists is affected more by journalism treating blogs as journalism than whatever bloggers think about themselves. And as long as blogs continue to play a major role in the shaping of politics, it wont matter that 11 percent focus on politics, or that the Democratic netroots actually appears to be rather small.

Blogs are what people think they are, are what people treat them as– and what powerful people and institutions think they are matters, to be blunt, more. Reality matters, of course, but in a secondhand sense, it matters  to the degree it impacts  other things. The social definition of blogs depends more on how they are treated by schools of journalism, how they are regulated by the government and the courts, and how (and if) they establish their "base of knowledge" in conjunction with networks of other knowledge producing actors (including academics, think-tanks, and Pew Surveys) than the very real and empirical fact that the average blogger is a fourteen year old girl blogging about her cat. What blogs "are" matters more than what they are.

Posted in Agenda | Leave a Comment »

Advance Review of New Indymedia Film, “i.”

Posted by chanders on July 16, 2006

The situation in the Middle East is incredibly depressing right now. I mean, I think that goes without saying. While I really doubt that the fighting will turn into a regional conflict (it seems like Israel wants to keep Syria out of it at least for now), who knows how it will end, and, what may be even worse, what the medium to long term consequences will be. For some good coverage from the Lebanese side of the border, check out Electronic Intifada.

Anyway. Here’s an advance review of the Indymedia film "i" that I did for the upcoming issue of the Indypendent. Read til the end to find screening information.

Political theorist Sheldon Wolin has written movingly of what he calls “fugitive democracy”: the pure democratic moment, unencumbered by institutionalized hierarchy and vibrating with the strength of the revolutionary multitude. “i,” the powerful and occasionally frustrating new film by independent directors Raphael Lyon and Andres Ingoglia, tells of one such democratic moment, the Argentinean economic collapse of 2001 and the social uprisings that accompanied it. Along the way it also functions as one of the first, if not the very first, feature length films about the Independent Media Center (IMC, or Indymedia) movement, which chronicled the Argentine struggle as it unfolded.

“i” is divided into three parts. The first, “Microscope,” examines the Argentinean uprising and the birth—or rather the rebirth– of the Argentina IMC; the second, “Telescope,” continues to ground its narrative in Argentina but expands the conversation to include more general ruminations and debates about the meaning and purpose of the Indymedia movements; the third, “Mirror,” briefly shifts its focus to New York City during the massive February 15th anti-war protests and then returns to Buenos Aires and the Plaza Mayo for the first anniversary of the December 19 uprising against President De la Rúa.

It is the focus on Indymedia activity in Argentina that is one of the strongest aspects to this beautifully shot, often profoundly moving film. In Western Europe and North America, even within the Indymedia movement, the activities, organization, and struggles of radical media of the global south are often overlooked or misunderstood. “i” is a galloping, careening, tornado of a film, often pausing briefly to listen in on one collective debate about the nature of Indymedia before moving on to the next crisis. One senses that the film’s directors are straining mightily to remove themselves and their own perspective from the narrative, letting members of various social movements and IMC collectives speak for themselves, even when their viewpoints conflict or seem contradictory.

It is this barely controlled chaos, this sense of being dropped into history in medias res, that, paradoxically, is also “i”’s greatest weakness. Its hard to imagine that anyone not already familiar with the history, structure, and background of the Indymedia movement will learn much about the network or what makes it tick—there is simply too much information for anyone not schooled in radical media history and leftist politics to absorb easily. In this way, of course, “i” resembles the websites of the media movement that it chronicles: intuitively understandable for many, a collection of sprawling, disorganized, headache-inducing data for some.

The film ends on an odd, ambiguous note. Back at the Plaza de Mayo in December of 2002, the insurrection largely over, one IMC member complains that the “ideologues have returned,” and one suspects that he is referring less to right-wing ideologues than their leftist counterparts. Many of the Argentina IMC members speak about their disillusionment with concepts such as “journalism” and “news,” the dangers of media consumerism, and the need to dissolve the Indymedia Argentina into social movements themselves. What this means in practice, of course, is not entirely clear. “What may be needed is a new communication paradigm,” the film’s voice-over narrator concludes. “What may be needed is a leap of faith.”

“i” was Produced and directed by independent filmmakers Raphael Lyon and Andres Ingoglia, and has its community premiere at Bluestockings Bookstore on July 20. For press inquiries, contact Amy Dalton at 267-974-0624. To book a screening of “i” and/or a speaking engagement, contact Jen Angel at jenangel@riseup.net

For some good background history on the complicated birth of Argentina IMC, see anarchogeek.

Posted in Personal Musings | 2 Comments »

Backlash Building Against ‘Citizen Journalism’?

Posted by chanders on July 6, 2006

Well, it looks like the Media Giraffe Conference, despite its prohibitive cost, got more than a few blogger neurons firing. How else to explain the fascinating dialog going back and forth across the blogosphere over the last few days? The stakes: citizenship, democracy, justice, and network-actors … not necessarily framed in exactly those terms, but that’s how I read the conversation, anyway.

The key questions: is citizen journalism good for journalism? And is it good for democracy? Participants in the debate: Jeff Jarvis, Dan Gilmor, Vin Crosbie over at Corante, and Tom Stites

Crosbie tackles the is -citizens-journalism-good-for-journalism angle first, with this post that aims to let some of the air put of the citizen’s journalism bubble. After taking big media to task for its belief that all it needs to do to save itself is repackage its old content in a variety of new, digital media, Crosbie expresses a paralell frustration:

Just giving the tool of citizen journalism to the public won’t reverse the declines. More changes to journalism than just citizen journalism are necessary. What’s needed is not just including ‘the people who used to be known as the audience but also changing the core journalism by the people who used to be known as Knight Ridder.

Crosbie’s argument is Putnamian, as he acknowledges. Reporting the news is hard, and most people won’t want to do it. Against Jarvis’ argument that 1% participation in media content creation means that citizen’s journalism is a success, Crosbie contends that 1% participation does not democracy– or "from-the people" journalism– make.

There is a pile of solipcism in the news industry. We like to report the news, so we think that most people would, too. But I fear that some advocates single-minded focus on citizen journalism is distracting the news media from many, many other changes it must make. The advocates are succumbing to Maslow’s Syndrome — when the tool in your hand is a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail. ‘Citizen journalism is a wonderful tool, but more tools than just that are needed to repair and rebuild the media.

Meanwhile, Stites pokes at the relationship between journalism and democracy from a different, and incredibly productive, angle. In my opinion, this speech is seminal. Stites argues that the decline in newspaper and old-media readership is much more significant than we may imagine, and actually points the the emergence of an class and race-based "information gap" of major proportions. Drawing on unpublished statistics from the Pew annual surveys, Stites makes the point that while upper-class consumption of "actual journalism" has actually increased or held about steady

For people in households earning $30,000 to $50,000, readership is down by 13 points, to 35 per cent from 48; for people in $20,000-to-$30,000 households, it’s down by 9 points, to 34 per cent from 43 per cent, and for people in households with less than $20,000 income, it’s down 11 points, to 27 per cent from 38 per cent. In terms of percentage of decline, the falloff exceeds 20 per cent for all three of these groups – in only six years.

Why the decline? Stites attributes it to a growing elitism of America’s journalistic output, both amongst the journalistic class themselves, but more importantly, due to the fact that newspapers no longer feel the need to garner advertising from "downscale" advertisers, and thus have an incentive to attract "downscale" readers. "Now, instead of having sympathy for the poor our newspapers discard them."

And while he doesn’t come right out and say it, the implication is that the Internet is only making things worse, not better: a vast information glut is slowly congealing amongst those at the top of the income, and disposable time, ladder:

Many of us think about citizen journalism and blogs as the saviors of democracy, and while they certainly have impact and show lots of promise, so far they reach a much smaller and much more rarefied audience than daily newspapers. We talk of readers as the audience, as the users, and as the people formerly known as the audience, believing that they are participants in the news process now. It’s much more accurate to say that some are participants now, and to acknowledge that the majority do not participate, and that no small number never will. Many of us are committing the marketing sin of thinking the customers are like us. Some are like us, but most citizens are less educated than us, and make less money than us, and have far more uncertainty in their lives.

It’s interesting: Stites’ argument reminds me of Subcomandante Marcos’ famous speech to the Freeing the Media Teach-In organized by the Learning Alliance, Paper Tiger TV, and FAIR in Cooperation with the Media & Democracy Congress, January 31 & February 1 1997. "The world of contemporary news is a world that
exists for the VIP’s– the very important people," Marcos said. "Their everyday
lives are what is important: if they get married, if they divorce, if
they eat, what clothes they wear, or what if they clothes they take
off– these major movie stars and big politicians. But common people
only appear for a moment– when they kill someone, or when they die." One of the original hopes of Indymedia was that it would empower the very people who were being increasingly ignored by the corporate press to cover themselves, to "be their own media." And while, as Josh Breitbart notes, the citizen’s media revolution has succeeded, the poor and marginalized are still being left behind.

Gilmor and Jarvis don’t overtly engage with either Crosbie’s or Stites’ postings; nevertheless, their own exchange over the differences between "citizens" versus "networked" journalism indirectly tackle some of the same questions. Jarvis says that maybe its time to  drop the whole "citizen’s journalism" label  in favor of "networked journalism":

“Networked journalism” takes into account the collaborative nature of journalism now: professionals and amateurs working together to get the real story, linking to each other across brands and old boundaries to share facts, questions, answers, ideas, perspectives. It recognizes the complex relationships that will make news. And it focuses on the process more than the product.

Gilmor disagrees. While networks are part of the story, citizen’s journalism, in his opinion, draws attention to the importance of having a better informed citizenry. "While I’m all for “networked journalism,” I’m also going to stick with “citizen journalism” — because in the end journalism is a service, not just a method."

As Terry Heaton points out, this isn’t the first time networked publics have been brought into the discussion about online and citizens media.  Judging from Jeff’s comments, he seems to have put his finger on something. Indeed, the notion of journalistic knowledge as the product of a network has been a constant theme of mine on this very here blog: here and especially here. The idea has received its most theoretically cogent form via the work of Turner.  At the same time, I’d argue that while the notion of "networked journalism" may be a good descriptor of an empirical reality, there’s still a rhetorical argument involved that involves the creation of distinction within networks. Or as I said in my post about Yearly Kos:

There’s still a rhetorical value to fixing your own borders, on the part of the social actors themselves. In other words: the Kossacks, the Democratic Party, the mainstream media– all these groups find it useful to define themselves and others as insider or outsider, as part of "our" group or part of "the other guy’s" group." This is where the  Bourdieuean notion of the field, distinction, and the "real as relational" can still be valuable, perhaps not as a description of actually existing social reality, but at least as the description of a rhetorical and "professional" strategy by which insiders are distinguished from outsiders.  And yet, the very fact that such categorical definitions find such little purchase in "actually existing" social life renders them supremely flexible and, indeed, potentially incoherent.

So how do we account for Gilmor’s counter argument? At this point, its would be useful to take the academic route and say that, while Jarvis is describing an empirical reality, Gilmor is describing a normative ideal. I don’t think that this is wrong; but I also think its useful to ponder the intersection of the two notions. In other words: how is networked culture affecting democracy? And how is networked journalism impacting journalism’s democratic promise?

Stites has made the stakes clear. The answers to this question are more important than ever.

Posted in Personal Musings | 2 Comments »