Wordblog: ‘Saddam video is not citizen journalism’

I held off on the Saddam hanging video thing – I assume to the disappointment of all of those people who, according to my stats landed here having searched for it on Google.

Call me old-fashioned but I don’t really see the point of official pictures and video of an execution, never mind unofficial ones. That’s just me.

Still, Andrew Grant-Adamson has an interesting response to an article by Tim Luckhurst in The Independent on Sunday. It caught my eye less for its topic and more as the Independent article is a great example of the general ignorance of what ‘citizen journalism’ is.

Claiming that we can all ‘set the news agenda’, Luckhurst begins the article

It takes only one person with a camera phone for news editors to start losing control to the citizen journalists, as demonstrated by the violent images of the death of Saddam Hussein

Grant-Adamson isn’t convinced by the argument that this is some kind of zenith in Citizen Journalism as Luckhurst claims.

We cannot accept that any picture, video or account of an event that comes into the public domain is journalism, citizen or otherwise, without stripping all meaning from the word.

I agree. But for me the idea that this is an example of editors losing control to CJ’s is just nonsense.

Traditional broadcasters and newspapers were confronted with the biggest story yet to emerge from what Americans call “participatory media”, television editors term “user-generated content”, and participants define as the era of citizen journalism.

No, no, no. The hanging video was, for want of a better word, citizen distribution, that’s it.

As Grant-Adamson so rightly says:

What has changed is the means by which material such as the execution video can come into the public domain and immediately by-pass the mainstream media. Its widespread distribution also challenges the role of the press and broadcasters as arbiters of taste and decency.

That raises big enough issues without muddying the water with talk about citizen journalism.

3 Replies to “Wordblog: ‘Saddam video is not citizen journalism’”

  1. Andy, I would be really interested in your opinion regarding what “citizen journalism” really is.

    Also, even if we accept some form of “citizen journalism” can/should we accept the term “citizen journalist”. I think I’m not the only one who can see a difference between the two terms. A citizen can participate in a form of journalism but can he become a journalist without making journalism his/her main employment?

    In my point of view it’s vaugly the same as Academic astronomers and amateur astronomers. No one can deny that amazing discoveries have been made by amateur astronomers but nevertheless the bulk of what we call “Astronomy” has come from professional astronomers.

    In that sence shouldn’t we start using the term Amateur in place of citizen? It’s not like professional journalists are not citizens.

  2. Thanks for the comment Alex

    For me citizen journalism (and I would love a better term) is about people participating in the journalistic process.

    Also, even if we accept some form of “citizen journalism” can/should we accept the term “citizen journalist”

    No, it’s a rubbish term. It’s been subverted and distorted to the point where it has become lazy shorthand for journalists trying to get a grip on the changes in their industry. But that’s what we have.

    A citizen can participate in a form of journalism but can he become a journalist without making journalism his/her main employment?

    I don’t agree with that. As a journalist, are you defined by who you work for or is journalism some higher ideal? It’s like asking ‘are you only catholic if you are the Pope”. If the only difference we can come up with between a PJ and CJ is that a PJ gets paid then that doesn’t say much for PJ’s.

    And who says they can or they can’t participate? What ‘form’ of journalism are we talking about here – Journalism lite – all the goodness of real journalism without the journalists? That’s the real problem that many in the main stream media can’t get a handle on – they don’t get to say who participates.

    In that sence shouldn’t we start using the term Amateur in place of citizen? It’s not like professional journalists are not citizens.

    No. If you start to use amateur and professional then you automatically introduce an assessment of quality that doesn’t serve either party well and muddies the argument.

    I would equate professionalism not with getting paid to do the job, but with the approach you take. If a person tells important, compelling stories, follows the principles of balance and accuracy and serves that to an audience in a way they want, aren’t they a journalist?

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