Thursday, August 04, 2005

Week 4 Seminar: Citizen Journalism

This week's texts (in the broadest sense of the word) are:

[X] Dan Gilmor, 'Introduction', 'From Tom Paine to Blogs and Beyond', 'The Read-Write Web', 'The Empires Strike Back' and 'Making Our Own News' from We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People. Sebastopol: O'Reilly Media, 2004, pp. ix-xviii, 1-43 & 209-246.

[X] From my blog Ponderance, 'The Mediascape & The London Bombings' (try and read most of the articles linked to in the post, but don't worry too much about looking at the Wikipedia and WikiNews since we'll return to those in a couple of weeks).

[X] John Hockenberry, 'The Blogs of War', Wired, 13, 8, August 2005.

[X] Watch the 8 minute Flash presentation EPIC 2014 which traces participatory media history from the past all the way to a possible 2014.

This week we're looking more closely at the growing phenomenon of citizen journalism, which basically is built on the idea that blogs, wikis and other tools of the digital age allows anyone to participate in the creation of media and, more specifically, journalism. Of course, the claim that anyone with a blog can become a citizen journalist is fraught with trouble since journalists are bound by years of training and codes of ethics while a non-professional reporter would have none of these restrictions. Nevertheless, the cynicism about the accuracy and balance of 'big media' has led to a lot of disillusionment with the mainstream newsmedia, and opened the door for citizen journalism as an important facet of participatory culture. Dan Gilmor actually comes from a professional journalistic background, but is one of the loudest and clearest proponents of citizen journalism, and his book which you're reading sections from is one of the clearest manifestos for this new style of participatory media. While there have been a number of flashpoints where the impact of citizen journalism has been evident, the recent London Bombings illustrated the impact of everyday citizens reporting their news when everyone from personal blogs to the BBC was carrying news and video footage from Londoners who shot pictures with mobile phones and blogged their experiences within minutes of the explosions. The post from my blog lists some of the more interesting reporting (and reactions to it) surrounding the London explosions, so please read as many of the linked articles as possible (they're all pretty short!). John Hockenberry's article looks at the way bloggers in the Iraq military are changing the way the media reporting occurs from within the military. Finally, the flash presentation EPIC 2014 traces a line from current trends in participatory media looking to the future and some of the problems that may occur if citizen media is accepted without a lot of thought being put into its place in our mediascape.

A few questions to start thinking about as you're reading:
[1] What impact has citizen journalism had thus far? Does that influence look likely to expand or decrease in the future?
[2] What reasons have led to the rise of citizen journalism (yes, the increase in technological ease is one, but look for others, too)?
[3] How worried should we be about journalistic style reporting coming from non-professionals? Are there ethical worries or issues about accuracy and accountability? How reliable to you find citizen journalism?


Blogger Hilary said...

I wanted to use your mediascape and London Bombings in my Wikipedia seminar!!!!
Can I still use them?

Mon Aug 08, 05:29:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Tama said...


If you can find other Wikipedia examples for your seminar, that would be preferable.


Mon Aug 08, 06:39:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Hilary said...

But it tracks recent events and shows the benefit of wikipedia against other encylopedia styles when documenting current events or news etc and also highlights the fact that the news is coming from a number of sources, so its give people an alternate point of view, rather than limiting to specific media reporters...


any other suggestions of what I could use to show this? I mean, can I just refer to it as a reading that has been done, and bring it up in the seminar?
Nautrally I will have other readings for that week, but I really want people to keep it in mind because it is an interesting aspect of Wikipedia that I think is worth discussing!

Mon Aug 08, 07:27:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Hilary said...

btw I have just discovered you have broken down the 'We The Media' text into the sections we have to read/print...THANKYOU! :)

Mon Aug 08, 09:35:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Hilary said...

Ok guys, so here is another instalment of ‘Hilary’s review of Seminar!’, and I have to say this one is going to be shorter!
Basically I didn’t find this topic that interesting, and in the past day when rethinking over the issues nothing inspirational has come to mind.
Firstly when considering the “warblogs” article it came to me that once again journalism in the ‘war zone’ is changing. History tells us that the last time this happened in any significant way was during the Vietnam War, which due to its media coverage, was the first war to really be seen back home. I often ponder over this, especially since I am a fan of, wait for it, “Rambo”. Was the coverage of the Vietnam war a good thing? Could people at home really understand what their men were suffering or dealing with? And really, the answer is no, the entire war was a messy experience where it was hard for those fighting to define who were the enemies and who were the innocent civilians who needed protection. One day the troops will be helping a villager, and the next they will be ambushed by them. Anyway, the media coverage of this kind of war could never be beneficial.
However, in the ‘warblogs’ article, it was the INDIVIDUALS themselves writing about their experiences, about what it was to be in their situation. This I think has a far different effect than previous media attempts to cover a war. But whether it is still a beneficial thing is a different matter.
Considerations such as security, and also simply the idea of whether reporting day to day events in war is a good thing in such an unfiltered medium need to be considered. What are the consequences of basically anybody with access to the internet reading a blog by a member of the army? I don’t know, and an endless discussion could occur if I was to go into it!! But basically, writing that ‘one had to tell their fellow army buddies that taking ecstasy in the tank while on duty was a bad idea’, might create concern.
I think like every new development, there is great potential in the idea that members of the army can write blogs, and keep in contact with friends and family (and let us not forget the potential to question authority and offer a alternate voice to those in power!), BUT there needs to be some serious consideration of the negative effects of this kind of journalistic activity. Otherwise, we might end up with some more ‘Rambo’s’!
Meanwhile, the London Bombings incident really highlighted some of the great potential that citizen journalism has. The idea that blogs aided in people discovering whether their loved ones were alive when the official system was inundated with calls, was extremely positive.
In general, I like the idea that people who are EXPERIENCING the events are the ones recording them, and it isn’t an outsider putting their own spin on something. There is no time to frame a picture or consider the spin when the event is happening to you. This notion of what I think is at times ‘raw reporting’ that can occur from certain forms of citizen journalism is liberating. But at the same time, I think it is also dangerous.
I think the future of journalism will be one to watch, and I hope that ‘citizen journalism’ and ‘professional journalism’ will find the appropriate place to meet, and working together and influencing each other, they will produce something better.
It’s going to be a fine line though, and who I wonder will have the power and influence to draw it!
*That really wasn't shorter was it?*

Fri Aug 12, 12:30:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Gwyneth said...

Afternoon folks,

Yes Hilary, I agree with everything you've said up there. It's that age old question... just because you CAN do something doesn't necessarily mean you SHOULD...

I guess this week I felt the ethics involved seemed more important than in our previous discussions. Personally, I see more good than bad to come of P2P sharing of music, movies, etc. The legal side of that issue is more a case of a general lack of common sense. However, I take more seriously the implications of such direct information flows as described in the 'Blogs of War.' Is it right that worried families read about drug taking, bloody battles and casualties which may or may not involve a loved one? People who choose to publish such information should be careful in the way they present the lives of others.

The authenticity of the blogs is also something which concerns me. What is there to stop a teenager in Perth posting online that they are in Iraq fighting? Rubbish stories could undermine the value of real blogger experiences.

Regardless, I can't deny the benefits of true 'citizen journalism' in times of crisis.
The shots taken by people in the London bombings and Christmas Tsunami are frighteningly live.
It's just the bogus fraudsters who worry me.

Fri Aug 12, 05:01:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Hilary said...

*waves at Gwen* hi Gwen!! :P
You know the issue you raised there is one that is always related to the net in some form or other.
How do we know people are who they say they are?
It reminds me of all those instances of people chatting over the net, and thinking they were talking to say, a 15 yr old girl, when in fact they were talking to a 50 yr old man!
and, the whole blog writing thing brings to mind an incident I heard about on LJ, where people write blogs about illness or some animal dying etc, and really it is all lies and not true at all.
I guess the net is the perfect vessel for people who suffer from things such as munchaunsen syndrome (I think thats the one).

Fri Aug 12, 07:01:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Andrew said...

hi chums,

Just thought I try to link this with the things I have learnt from previous units. I was reading up an article on 'media pervasiness'; which is about how technology advancement had allowed materials to be recorded and shown at an incredible speed (for example. live telecast)

It is great to receive information at such speed but problems can occur when things 'might not appear what it seems to be'. Simply put, the receivers/consumers are being shown immediate reports that can be lacking in analysis due to on-the-spot depictions. The London bombing was a great example. After the bombing, it was easy to get the vibe from the news reporter that was ‘Ok, we are not sure who was responsible, but it probably was from Osama Bin Laden or something like that’. Citizenry journalisms force even greater pressure on the news media crew to be fast on the reporting, leaving little time for research or careful studying. Quick interpretation of the scenario without research and preparation can be misleading and have dire effects on the perception of the receivers/consumers/viewers.

I also agreed with Gwyneth regarding the authenticity of blogging. It seems that blogs can be a double bladed sword; such that it can be use to draw or inspire further attentions to news (such as the racist remark by the politician – read liz’s comment) but false stories or rumours can also possibly walk thru this path, spiralling out of control.

Tue Aug 16, 01:39:00 am 2005  
Blogger Kaori said...

In last week's readings, I really liked the notion of 'citizen journalism' and 'professional journalism'. As I or we talked in class, I believe there will always be both types of journalisms, since there is a significant difference as well as importance in each type of journalism. Of course, the traditional 'professional journalism' will always exist since they are articles written by skilled writers with considerable amount of research behind it. Not that 'citizen journalists' don't do any research or are bad writers, but obviously, there is a difference worthy of notice. As for the growing 'citizen journalism', this exciting new form of journalism will definitely continue to grow, surprising the world with the amazing works they can perform.

Tue Aug 16, 11:48:00 pm 2005  

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