The New York Times carried an article on Monday how Yahoo! and Reuters are jumping on the citizen journalism bandwagon, and I find myself amused. The Times article is written almost like citizen journalism was just discovered by them, Yahoo! and Reuters. If you pay attention to the phenomenon, the story reports no real new news. It’s a yawner except for the fact that one of the Internet’s biggest news sites is jumping on the bandwagon.
I have issues with how the Times reports articles like no one’s ever heard the news before — which I think is pretty arrogant — but that’s a different issue for a different blog entry.
I decided to check out the Yahoo! page devoted to citizen journalism, and I was pleased to find there is “training” on the site about creating video and photos that are newsworthy. In the survey I completed last summer of citizen journalism Web sites, one of the thing lacking from the sites was training for its amateur contributors. Well, formal training and guidance was missing. I know from my own experience that informal training happens every day.
I feel like the effort from Yahoo! and Reuters, however, is not a full embrace of the phenomenon. Sure, there’s training on the site. There’s examples too. But is it fully being embraced?
The work submitted may not necessarily be used. That’s perfectly fine. It’s how we operate at WestportNow. We try to use everything on WN, but we also are selective of what we use.
What Yahoo! and Reuters is presenting, however, seems more like an effort to cut the freelance budget. Are they cutting stringers and replacing it with citizen journalism? How are freelance photographers — who are already having a hard enough time selling their work — going to react to such an effort? Are they going to feel resentful of citizen contributors?
Citizen journalism is great and should be embraced, but at the same time it should not completely replace mainstream, professional journalism. It can be weaved in through the professional journalism, but it certainly should not replace it.