Citizen journalism, not all it was cracked up to be?

This post is based on American journalism, however, I don’t think Canadian journalism differs that greatly.
There are more questions than answers here so feel free to offer opinion.

From the Annual Report on American Journalism;

The prospects for user-created content, once thought possibly central to the next era of journalism, for now appear more limited, even among “citizen” sites and blogs. News people report the most promising parts of citizen input currently are new ideas, sources, comments and to some extent pictures and video. But citizens posting news content has proven less valuable, with too little that is new or verifiable. (It may thrive at smaller outlets with fewer resources.) And the skepticism is not restricted to the traditional mainstream media or “MSM.” The array of citizen-produced news and blog sites is reaching a meaningful level. But a study of citizen media contained in this report finds most of these sites do not let outsiders do more than comment on the site’s own material, the same as most traditional news sites. Few allow the posting of news, information, community events or even letters to the editors. And blog sites are even more restricted. In short, rather than rejecting the “gatekeeper” role of traditional journalism, for now citizen journalists and bloggers appear for now to be recreating it in other places.

Do you see your blog as an end in itself? Do you welcome participation from others? How censored are your comments? Does this result in a better, more informative outcome than traditional media?

I admit to having had occasions where I felt a comment was just too hateful to allow out of moderation. While it makes me feel better not to have hateful screeds on my blog, I do wonder if perhaps we as a citizen media have a greater obligation to allow free discourse.

I know I have a tendency to avoid blogs which don’t allow comments, even if I have no intention do so. The idea that someone would immediately disqualify input from others is just off-putting.

From the overview

The reality, increasingly, appears more complex. Looking closely, a clear case for democratization is harder to make. Even with so many new sources, more people now consume what old media newsrooms produce, particularly from print, than before. Online, for instance, the top 10 news Web sites, drawing mostly from old brands, are more of an oligarchy, commanding a larger share of audience, than in the legacy media. The verdict on citizen media for now suggests limitations. And research shows blogs and public affairs Web sites attract a smaller audience than expected and are produced by people with even more elite backgrounds than journalists.2

{(2)Hindman, Matthew, 2007, “Political Accountability and the Web’s Missing Middle,”[..]Hindman’s research also establishes a stronger pedigree in terms of elite education and advanced post- graduate degrees for the top bloggers than for the country’s leading op-ed columnists.}

I do not know the educational background of some the new ‘columnists’ at the NP, however, their extremist actions and Anne Coulterish tirades would suggest that perhaps the MSM or at least the NP has jumped the shark. Certainly far more sensible and informative voices can be found in the “blogosphere”.

Perhaps they are merely a year behind in adopting this concept

Many news outlets are moving toward becoming more niche brands in their coverage and appeal. With fundamentals shifting, we sense the news business entering a new phase heading into 2007—a phase of more limited ambition. Rather than try to manage decline, many news organizations have taken the next step of starting to redefine their appeal and their purpose based on diminished capacity. Increasingly outlets are looking for “brand” or “franchise” areas of coverage to build audience around. For some, the new brand is what Wall Street calls “hyper localism” (consider the end of foreign bureaus at the Boston Globe or the narrowing of the coverage area at the Atlanta Journal Constitution). For others, it is personality and opinion (note the rising ratings of Lou Dobbs or Keith Olbermann). For still others it is personal involvement (the brand of Anderson Cooper, and, more tentatively and occasionally, even broadcast network anchors). For an emerging cohort of Web sites it is the involvement of everyday people (some alternative news sites now come closer than ever to the promise of authentic citizen media). In a sense all news organizations are becoming more niche players, basing their appeal less on how they cover the news and more on what they cover. The consequences of this narrowing of focus involve more risk than we sense the business has considered. Concepts like hyper localism, pursued in the most literal sense, can be marketing speak for simply doing less. Branding can also be a mask for bias

{emphasis mine}

In both the piece linked above and this piece the authors mention the emphasis on local news. Blogging offers a unique ability to provide local news and yet most bloggers seem to concentrate on national or international news.

Does this mean that the MSM is out of touch with it’s readership? or that bloggers are? Or are bloggers filling a void that the MSM has created?

I have no tie up to this post, rather I hope that it will inspire discussion. Please feel free to offer your opinion….


  1. I’ve always thought the idea that blogging would in any significant way replace the traditional media was ridiculously overblown. Reliable news requires experienced reporters on the scene, something bloggers don’t have. Consequently, they are obliged to rely on the traditional media. The result is that blogging is rather like a giant letters-to-the-editor page. The major difference for me is that when I get a letter published in the Globe and Mail, I have vastly more readers than when I post a blog. But, what the hell, I enjoy blogging. I like to write and it helps me sort out my thoughts. If I can share them, all the better.

    As for posting comments on my blog, I insist they be civil, reasonably well-written and not anonymous. My blog – my rules.

    I agree with you about local news. This is an area where bloggers may have first-hand knowledge and could therefore make a real contribution to both news and comment.

    Happy blogging,
    Bill L.

  2. ’ve always thought the idea that blogging would in any significant way replace the traditional media was ridiculously overblown. Reliable news requires experienced reporters on the scene, something bloggers don’t have.

    Well. considering that the big chain known as CanWest has cut off the newsfeeds, and massively cutback on staff. Re-delegated beat reporters to the gardening pages and that kind of thing…….The National pap publishes racist hatemongers in the op-eds now..
    We havent much reliable news on the scene anymore. The big chains aren’t reporting so much anymore as they are regurgitating the party lines.

    On our blog users have to register. But we don’t make many “disappear”. We flog them with words. :)