Bob Stepno's Other Journalism Weblog
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Thursday, December 23, 2004

Thanks to j's scratchpad for pointing out that Wikipedia has a new entry on "citizen journalism." The article even makes the connection between do-it-yourself online journalism by bloggers and the "public journalism" and "civic journalism" some newspapers and TV stations started exploring a dozen years ago.

Wikipedia, if you haven't tried it, is a user-edited free encyclopedia. It fits the "citizen journalism" category too. (I noticed last week that it has reached sufficient reliability to be cited as a source of Christmas lore in a print-edition Knoxville News-Sentinel article.) Last year I contributed some bits and pieces to the Wikipedia Hartford Courant entry and corrected facts about events that happened on Dec. 23, including the "birth" of the transistor in 1947.

Communal editing is still a pretty strange concept, but in the participatory spirit of the Web, the Wiki and the citizen journalism topic itself, I celebrated my birthday today by adding some text and a few links to that Wikipedia "citizen journalism" page. (Yup, I sure know how to have a good time.)

I haven't done a lot of Wiki editing, so someone may "fix" my contributions before you see them, but maybe they'll stay. I decided to add my two cents' worth when I got annoyed by someone's inclusion of Buzz Merritt on a list of "other academics..." He was one of the first newspaper editors to try to do a new kind of community-connected journalism. Sure, he has written a couple of books since then, and he has done some teaching, but "academic" doesn't capture his practical experience.

Phil Meyer, who introduced me to Buzz, falls in the same "non-traditional academic" category. A newspaper pro who got excited about scientific research methods, he and his students have used such methods to study public journalism.

So I added those links to the Wiki page, along with a link to Ted Glasser at Stanford, who has written or edited books on the subject. (Full disclosure: About 25 years ago, Ted was the first "academic" to ever ask me to talk to his journalism class. And for a couple of semesters in the 1990s, I was Phil's graduate assistant.)

If Phil and Ted are gone from that Wikipedia page, you'll know someone disagreed with either the format or content of my contributions. That's what editors are for. The alternative is a do-it-yourself blog like this. Actually, someone with more time to spend should move a lot of that content to a separate Public/Civic Journalism page.

One of the anonymous Wikipedists correctly pointed out that the original "public journalism" and "civic journalism" folks were professional journalists trying to emphasize a "for the people" angle in their work, while the new blog-centered "citizen journalism" is a "by the people" approach.

Good observation, as long as we all remember that journalists are people too -- and citizens. They're just lucky enough to get paid for doing that "for the people" work. (But not paid much, in most cases.)

My three opnions:
  • More people should take journalism courses to help them write clearly about the world.
  • More journalism students should take "civics" courses to understand the "public affairs" aspect of the world. (At the college level, relevant information turns up in political science, economics, law and history; sociology, anthropology and philosophy wouldn't hurt, either.)
  • More working journalists should use weblogs, community mailing lists and other online media to listen to and be more in touch with their communities. (In the old days, they used to get their civic knowledge by hanging out at saloons and Elks clubs.)
Finally, links to two similarly-titled in-depth studies of the new citizen online journalism. I've mentioned both here before, but need to remind myself they're perfect for Christmas-break reading: We Media and We the Media.

2:19:32 PM    comment []

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