If You're Going To Dump On 'Citizen Journalism' Projects... It Probably Helps Not To Get All Your Facts Wrong

from the just-saying dept

This one comes via Jay Rosen, who points us to an article at NowToronto.com that trashes a new Toronto-based journalism project called OpenFile, for being a "citizen journalism" project. The main complaint seems to be that so-called "citizen journalism" companies haven't done well, and thus, this new one won't do well either. It also complains that "the tone" is "all over the place" because it doesn't have an institutional voice. That point struck me as odd, because any news publication that has many opinion writers and columnists often has a tone that is "all over the place" due to the conflicting views of those opinion writers. Just look at the NY Times and its varied op-ed writers.

But what made the story more amusing is the note in the comments that the guy trashing this "citizen journalism" project got pretty much all of the facts wrong, including the idea that it's a "citizen journalism" project. As the comment noted:
We don't do citizen journalism, and people don't vote on the pitches. Maybe you want to consider linking to this comment in the piece, or offering a correction.

Your points about the challenges faced by sites like NowPublic etc. are valid, but in all honesty they don't apply. It's incorrect to say we're practicing citizen journalism in light of the fact that we actually hire professional journalists to follow up on pitches submitted by the public. That's one of the distinguishing characteristics of our model.

When you ask whose perspective is offered in the piece about Sonny Yeung, it's perfectly clear that it's the perspective of the author of the piece, who also happens to be working at the Toronto Star for the summer. It wasn't written by a citizen journalist. It has professional byline just like the above post does.

We take suggestions from the public and encourage them to be part of the reporting process, but the work is done by professionals
It would seem that, if you're working for an established publication, and want to dump on "citizen journalism" for not being of particularly high quality, it would behoove you to make sure that your own article on the subject is at least close to accurate.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2010 @ 10:48pm

    "It also complains that "the tone" is "all over the place" because it doesn't have an institutional voice. That point struck me as odd, because any news publication that has many opinion writers and columnists often has a tone that is "all over the place" due to the conflicting views of those opinion writers. Just look at the NY Times and its varied op-ed writers. " - yet, even with the variety of op-ed pieces, the ny times does have a distinct voice. not commenting directly on this new project, i do have to say that citizen journalist projects tend to come across as an assemblage of parts, rather than a whole. uneven quality, lack of editorial direction, lack of editorial control all add up to projects that are generally "all over the place".

    "it's the perspective of the author of the piece, who also happens to be working at the Toronto Star for the summer." - sounds like an intern to me. does anyone who what this person does for the toronto star? writer? type writer ribbon changer? just working in the building doesnt suddenly give the person massive credibility, especially if they are a summer intern (which is what is reads like).

     

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      Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2010 @ 11:07pm

      Re:

      I actually looked into this, and you know what (TAM, if that's you), you may have gotten something right for once. The reporter in question actually looks like a young amateur. But hey, every reporter has to gain experience somehow and somewhere. If this person is gaining experience with OpenFile then what's wrong with that? and just because this person is new doesn't mean he's not a professional or that he's a citizen journalists. His profession is one of a journalist, probably studied journalism in school, he's a professional journalist. He's just new at his profession. But these new journalist sources are still new and when they mature their journalists will also acquire more experience. Not to mention this was one specific example being responded to, who's to say that everyone they hire is new and young.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, May 25th, 2010 @ 5:13am

        Re: Re:

        actually, it looks like a total of, what, two dozen fluff pieces? it doesnt look like a single one since 2009. he may be hired as a summer replacement for someone, or perhaps as a floater while others are on vacation. perhaps his summer job hasnt started yet, which is why we dont see anything since 2009. perhaps the website is poor. i read the piece on open file, and it read pretty much like most of the blog level crap on the internet written by amateurs. open file sort of looks like what happens to a blog when you let just about anyone write anything. no common style, no common purpose, no.. voice.

         

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          PaulT (profile), May 25th, 2010 @ 7:10am

          Re: Re: Re:

          http://arts.nationalpost.com/author/aveling/

          Assuming it's the same Nick Aveling, he seems to have moved into entertainment writing for another newspaper (National Post). I don't have time to read them right now, but I'm assuming that he's trying to find his feet, and after having interned for the summer (and thus only written on subjects assigned to him that may not interest him) he's found employment as a professional writer in a subject he's more comfortable with.

          Really, I don't see what this has to do with the article anyway. Whoever Aveling is, it's clear that he's a writer at the start of his career and so doesn't have the seasoned approach an older writer would have.

          However, this does not invalidate the point of the article you're responding to and trying to attack. However much experience he has, Aveling does appear to be a professional writer or journalist and so the original claim that this represented "citizen journalism" is false. Therefore, your attacks on Mike are baseless, just like the attacks in the article being criticised.

          You can make another argument if you wish (that lower quality or less seasoned writers are attracted to OpenFile than other publication methods), but the assertion that the articles are written by amateurs is patently false unless you have another example of an amateur writer that can't be proven wrong by Googling for 90 seconds.

           

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            TtfnJohn (profile), May 25th, 2010 @ 8:22am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Worse than baseless if you understand that the National Post, regardless of what you think of it's editorial perspective (very right wing) is likely the highest quality newspaper left in english speaking Canada.

            (I can't speak for french dailies in Quebec or elsewhere as, sadly, I can't read french.)

            It's unlikely that the Post would hire or pubish a third rate stringer.

            He does appear new to his craft though I can't imagine a better place than the Post to learn his craft. Certianly not, say, TorStar or, heaven forbid, the CBC.

             

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          Anonymous Coward, May 25th, 2010 @ 9:55am

          Re: Re: Re:

          it read pretty much like most of the blog level crap on the internet written by amateurs. open file sort of looks like what happens to a blog when you let just about anyone write anything. no common style, no common purpose, no.. voice.
          Kind of like what Mike writes, huh?

           

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      PaulT (profile), May 25th, 2010 @ 3:17am

      Re:

      Well, if you had bothered to do 30 seconds of research before writing that screed, you would have found that the author in question is Nick Aveling. A quick search on him brings up this:

      http://www.thestar.com/unassigned/columnists/556557--aveling-nick

      A list of articles listed by him for the Toronto Star and published on their website. this took me 2 clicks an a single Google search to find.

      Please, if you're going to criticise Mike, at least make sure your facts are correct. Especially when responding to an article about so-called professional who also can't be bothered to research their facts.

       

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    mertz, May 24th, 2010 @ 11:09pm

    well this just makes me want to look at open file. it's not like now is offering me anything decent.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2010 @ 11:17pm

    I just finished doing some research into this. Did you know...

    In Shakespeare's day, double negatives were considered emphatic, but today, they are considered grammar mistakes.

    "It Probably Helps Not To Get All Your Facts Wrong" is using a double negative and can qualify as bad grammar. An exception is Slavic dialects, where a double negative might be grammatically correct.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, May 25th, 2010 @ 4:59am

      Re: I just finished doing some research into this. Did you know...

      "It Probably Helps Not To Get All Your Facts Wrong"

      Is translated to

      "It Probably Helps To Get SOME of Your Facts Right"

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 11:13pm

      Re: I just finished doing some research into this. Did you know...

      Actually, just one negative ("not") there.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, May 25th, 2010 @ 9:19am

    Does anyone else write for techdirt? I mean, Mike just sucks. There is never any objective truth telling, he just skews everything to his point of view.

     

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      PaulT (profile), May 25th, 2010 @ 10:49am

      Re:

      "objective truth telling"

      Funnily enough, I also fail to see the objectiveness in your statement. At least Mike has the grace to identify himself and give some form of example of what he's objecting to when he write an article like this. You? Not so much...

       

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