Skip to primary content


Witt in AJC: No Need to Regulate Citizen Journalism

On Thursday, University of Georgia professor David Hazinski wrote an Op-Ed piece in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the evils of citizen journalism , saying:

 The news industry should find some way to monitor and regulate this new trend.

Being a resident of Georgia and the owner of,  I felt obligated to provide the opposite view, which is in today’s AJC Op-Ed section.

 I was civil, but others on the Internet were less forgiving. Here is Dan Gillmor’s blog title: Needed: Regulation to Prevent Journalists-Turned-Professors from Embarrassing Themselves.  Rhetorica’s response emphasized free press and is also worth a read. TigerHawk takes the best nasty shot. But first, of course, read the unedited copy that I sent to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which has the headline, at least online of “Citizen journalists: They don’t need to be regulated.” Here is the unedited copy:

As the owner of the URL, I feel obligated to respond to David Hazinski’s opinion piece yesterday about citizen journalism, in which he wrote: “The news industry should find some way to monitor and regulate this new trend.”   He doesn’t think the formerly passive news media audience members, who are now content producers, are very trustworthy. He adds: “Journalism schools such as mine at the University of Georgia should add courses to certify citizen journalists in proper ethics and procedures, much as volunteer teachers, paramedics and sheriff’s auxiliaries are trained and certified.” 

 I agree with him that journalism schools should offer training for citizens interested in the news media.. In fact, the Department of Communication at Kennesaw State University, in which I teach, is about to introduce a new concentration entitled: Journalism and Citizen Media. Although we might offer a Citizen Media certificate, I am far most interested in helping future journalists understand the power of citizen media involvement and totally opposed to “monitoring and regulating this new trend.”

 For example, mainstream media have been guilty of what Dr. Mercedes Lynn de Uriarte of the
University of Texas calls “censorship by omission.” The voices of the poor, the disenfranchised and minority groups often go unheard. Now citizen participation in the news media is an opportunity to get the disenfranchised heard in ways impossible in the past. Who is going to certify which of those voices is most trustworthy? Will it be the members of the journalism profession, who are 86 percent white and almost 100 percent middle class? I hope not.

Furthermore, you can be a great journalist without formal training. In 1996 former Washington Post reporter Betty Medsger did a national study of journalism education, entitled Winds of Change: Challenges Confronting Journalism Education. In her survey of relatively new journalists, those with less than 11 years experience, 27 percent said they had never studied journalism.

It gets better. Taking a 10-year slice of the major journalism awards and fellowships winners she found “the majority, sometimes an overwhelming majority” never studied journalism.” Here are her findings:
·  59 percent of print journalists who won Pulitzer Prizes never studied journalism;
·  75 percent of broadcast journalists who won DuPont Awards never studied journalism;
·  58 percent of journalists awarded Nieman Fellowships never studied journalism, and;
·  51 percent of journalists awarded Knight Fellowships at Stanford University never studied journalism.

Citizen journalism, which goes by many names including networked journalism, We Media, distributed journalism, and open-source journalism, is a direct outgrowth of the open-source software movement, about which Eric Raymond wrote in his book “The Cathedral and the Bazaar.” The cathedral being the old top-down model and the bazaar being the almost out-of-control street market model. Much to his surprise and almost everyone else’s the chaotic bazaar model produced better and more rigorous software than the rigid top-down model. In the end, this open bazaar form of citizen created journalism will produce a better informed public and a more rigorous public square.

Models will be formed, just as they were in the open-source software movement, which will filter out the crackpots, vandals and incompetents, and it will happen without a certification board. It will not be professional journalism pitted against citizen journalism, it will be a combination of both and that’s what I will be teaching my students. In other words, I will be teaching them about inclusion rather than exclusion and about freedom of speech and the power of the free press even if that press is a blog owned by a solitary individual publishing to the world.

8 Responses to “Witt in AJC: No Need to Regulate Citizen Journalism”

  1. Jason Says:

    Great job responding to the AJC article yesterday. We also covered it at blogflict, and agree with you strongly!

  2. Badri Ojha Says:

    very good articles. it is helpful for my studeis as well

  3. Rajesh KC Says:

    I am an untrained journalist. I believe journalism does not need a formal training. And I think it is an art of media you deliver.

  4. Jornalismo Cidadão | Comunicação Empresarial Says:

    [...] info em Witt in AJC, com diversos links onde a discussão está a ser [...]

  5. Periodismo Ciudadano Says:

    [...] Vía | PJNet [...]

  6. Says:

    I knew you were going to respond… It’s just another indication of the thinking of the traditional folks who are so fearful of losing power. I loved the line about someone faking a Rodney King like beating and passing it on to the press… Some folks still don’t get it.

  7. Leonard Witt Says:

    Hi All:

    What surprises me the most is that David Hazinski’s opinion got so much attention on the blogosphere, most of it negative and deservedly so.

    I get RSS feeds on citizen journalism and am always looking for new ideas and his was certainly not one of them. However, I guess it’s a good idea to stomp out a bad idea before it spreads.

    I just searched Technorati; here are couple of the more mild headlines directed at Hazinski

    Lying MSM Says Bloggers A Threat to “Journalism”

    An Immodest Journalistic Proposal

    And those are the nice ones: Here is the full list:

  8. Regulating Citizen Journalism Says:

    [...] “CITIZEN JOURNALISTS: They don’t need to be regulated“, Witt argues that we do not need to regulate citizen journalism because “you can be a [...]