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New Paradigm: Professional Citizen Journalists

Usually when we think of citizen journalists, we think of amateurs; the paid journalists are the professionals. That’s the pro/am model as Jay Rosen helped frame it. But Will Riley, a doctoral Masters degree student studying digital media at Georgia Tech, defines it differently. For him, on the one hand, you could have well trained professional citizen journalists and, on the other, well trained professional corporate journalists. His is obviously a thought experiment in progress, but he has a worthy idea from which to launch more complete ideas. He writes in part:

…citizen journalists do not brand their voice with the impersonal corporate voice. They brand their voices with themselves and others as individual persons. Citizen journalists do not have bosses that can censor their work. They can publish what they want when they want to whom they want, without the editorial control of any corporation. Citizen journalists do not have corporate clients or individual customers. To the extent that citizen journalists seek fame or fortune, they derive it from the direct contributions of the public.

He finishes saying:

Citizen journalism, with its fierce independence, is well suited to report on public opinion, especially when it disagrees with corporate attempts to maximize private profits.

It’s a very interesting way of thinking of citizen journalists. You have fully trained professionals working outside of the organized corporate world. In the mainstream media, you would have professional corporate journalists who work first and foremost for a company as most do now.

So now, the questions: How can these highly trained citizen professionals make a living outside the corporate environment? Would the news they produce be substantially different from the corporate pros? Would it be better, worse  or just different? Would we be better off with one, the other or both?   

5 Responses to “New Paradigm: Professional Citizen Journalists”

  1. Anna Haynes Says:

    And given the financial pressures and temptations to blur the line, how do you tell the true citizen journalists from the PR flacks?

    That’s what scares me. There are worse things than corporate journalism.

  2. Leonard Witt Says:

    Hi Anna:

    You say, There are worse things than corporate journalism.

    You are right, but I am trying to discover if there are better things than corporate journalism.

  3. Notes from a Teacher: Mark on Media » Monday squibs Says:

    [...] New Paradigm: Professional Citizen Journalists. Intriguing concept and Len Witt has some very good questions about the idea. [...]

  4. Will Riley Says:

    Let us consider the freelance journalists advertising their services at:

    In what ways do these freelancers conform to the corporate mentality and in what ways do they deviate from the business hierarchy?

    How could a professional citizen journalist “advertise their services” without becoming or suggesting any subservience?

    If citizen journalists relied on direct contributions, what would be a fair policy for displaying their content? If we primarily relied on a policy of global popularity, we would run the risk of perpetuating seniority rule. This is a common problem for top search results. Moreover, we would run the risk of manufacturing and reinforcing an entrenched hierarchy of celebrity. We do not want to erect towers for the philosopher kings; we want the philosopher kings and queens to be on the ground in the town square We want the school children to embarrass the philosopher kings and queens with such informed questions that they take off their crowns and pass them around for make-believe.

    So how can we help the freelancers juggle the fame and fortune so that they can write what they think is of public importance?

  5. Will Riley Says:

    This is an excellent example of how journalistic ethics comes into conflict with the management of one’s personal identity. I am not a Doctoral student yet, but now that it has been lined out and replaced with Masters degree on this article, it appears that I have been demoted, and perhaps reassigned to a more appropriate intellectual caste :> Also, since this article is currently one of the the top results for my name, the simple journalistic mistake has turned into a primary occasion for judging my academic standing and intellectual ability. Also, although you can draw a line through your blog article, a line has not yet been drawn on the Google search results, which now displays, “Doctoral Masters degree”. This further confuses my identity. So how does one balance the need to preserve the history of one’s writings with the need to preserve the correct interpretation of the subject as a whole, especially online, where one relatively popular article can really dominate the public perception of the individual? Maybe the best that can be done is to write a comment to recontextualize it.