Why the man who tweeted Osama bin Laden raid is a citizen journalist (but why he might not care)

There of interest in @ReallyVirtual at the moment. Sohaib Athar an IT consultant in Abbottabad Lahore Pakistan. That’s right. The fella who ‘inadvertently’ live tweeted the raid on Bin Laden’s compound. I don’t need to say much more.

The way twitter responded to the event threw up some interesting areas to ponder.

  • How could a journalist new to twitter build a network that would key them in to this kind of thing?
  • How much the discussion on twitter must have been like a the discussion in the newsroom
  • How amazing networks are.

The way the network raised Athar in to the view of more than just his own part of the twitterverse is explored in an interesting article by Steve Myers who traces back through his own network to try and get to where Athar came from.

But it’s the followup article (whose title I hijacked for the title of this one) that caught my attention. Myers writes:

When I wrote earlier this week about how quickly people around the world learned that Sohaib Athar had “live tweeted” the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, I thought carefully before calling him a citizen journalist.

He was prompted to explore that further by an article refuting the claim that twitter has replaced CNN by Dan Mitchell.

Steve Myers of The Poynter Institute declares that Sohaib Athar, a guy who lives near bin Laden’s compound, is a “citizen journalist.” Athar, an IT consultant, wondered what the hell was going on when the helicopters arrived in Abbottabad. Because he wondered on Twitter, in real time, now he’s a “citizen journalist.”

Even Athar, who had 750 followers as of Sunday night and now has tens of thousands,knows this is ridiculous.

Indeed. Although I think Mitchell uses Athars tweet (below) a little out of context to suit his point.

I am JUST a tweeter, awake at the time of the crash. Not many twitter users in Abbottabad, these guys are more into facebook. That's all.
Sohaib Athar

All of the articles are worth a read. Myers deconstruction of Athar’s tweets is particularly good. But there is one thing that is ignored.  It’s alluded to. But never asked. Does Athar care?

Does Athar care that he is a citizen journalist or otherwise? Is it important to him.

Pondering that one just reinforces my view that the only people who have a problem with the phrase are the people who use it most – journalists.

I did tweet Athar to ask him if he thought he was a citizen journalist. I don’t expect an answer. His twitter stream make it clear that he’s very busy with interviews.

I suppose one thing you can say for certain in that whether or not he’s a citizen journalist he’s certainly a celebrity.


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What is a citizen Journalist?

This made me smile. Not saying I agree. Just made me smile.

A definition of citizen journalist by Seth Finkelstein in response to a post by Dan Gillmor about defining the loaded term

“person who wants to have things both ways, by claiming all the privileges which attach to the role of “journalist”, while disclaiming all the responsibilities and rules which constrain that role, saying they are a “citizen””.

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Jay Rosen defines Citizen Journalism. UGC dies

Jay Rosen goes multimedia with his definition of Citizen Journalism

It’s such a rich definition in that it doesn’t really define what it does as much as it defines why it’s such a challenge for the mainstream media. And perhaps why they can’t get a handle on it.

Jay cam up with the definition a while back- the video just cements things. So there is a tonne of useful after matter, as Jay calls it, on his blog.

But I posted it up as CJ was foremost in my mind when I read a post over at Online Video Watch (not sure which one of the team wrote it) proclaiming the death of User Generated Content

Well, I’m calling it – user-generated content is officially dead. Hulu is here, ABC is raking in the views with their player, the studios are still adapting but beginning to develop business models, and semi-professional content creators now have the tools to compete with mainstream content.

The argument relies on the idea that UGC is a commercial model rather than a descriptor of anything not done by the pros but used by them.But ultimately it’s purely economic

The content universe is larger than ever before, and while UGC is worthless there’s plenty of time for those with passion to become successful professional producers

If UGC is dead then all that has really died is the indusrties defintion. The industries attempt to control and corall rather than understand havnt worked. As one commentor noted “UGC is only dead to slightly dead to most advertisers, not the people who publish the content.”

I thought Jay’s definition made an interesting contrast this view. Jay’s definition is about defining the activity and not its relationship to the media. It isn’t an attempt to define on the industries terms.

Maybe UGC isnt dead. Perhaps, in Godfather style, it is just ‘dead to us’

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Paxman and pathetic attempts

Robin and Alf ( thanks guys) posted on the BBC’s Jeremy Paxman “arrogance or a joke that misfired?” about submitting videos to the Newsnight website.

You could say something about an old school attitudes misplaced confidence in the security of their medium but sometimes a joke is a joke.  that misfired is probably a better explanation.

I guess we will see what Peter Barron’s view of Paxman’s joke is when he is packed off for that hard hitting interview with Posh spice; and lets the audience vote on which tie he has to wear.