One Benefit To Participatory Media: They Don't Care About Access

from the it's-about-the-story dept

Before getting to the meat of this post, let me start out by saying that I don’t believe that there’s some sort of “competition” between professional journalists and community-driven journalism. I think they need to work well together. That said, I find it silly when the professional journalists insist that “citizen journalism” can’t do certain things well. The same could be said for professional journalists as well. In fact, we’ve noted how professional journalists often fall into a form of journalistic capture, in that they know they need access and quotes in the future from certain sources, and thus reporters will often self-censor stories to maintain relationships with their sources.

However, as some are noticing, that isn’t necessarily the case with community-driven journalism where the story is more important than the access. It’s discussed in this writeup of how Condoleeza Rice was asked a series of detailed questions that the big name newspaper journalists had avoided (found via Jay Rose):

Why is citizen journalism like this so powerful? I think one answer is that citizen journalists don’t have to worry about their future careers as journalists nearly as much as the professional journalists do. In other words, professional journalists frequently have to worry about access. They don’t want to anger public officials and powerful people too much by being too aggressive, because they know that if they cross certain lines these people will stop talking to them. For instance, I saw Andrea Mitchell on Hardball the other night, and she was making a very implausible argument that Rice’s statement was not a “Frost/Nixon” moment. It seemed pretty clear to me that Mitchell was trying to stay on Rice’s good side. But citizen journalists don’t have this problem because we’re not worried about future access. We have the opportunity to be as aggressive as we want. After all, there probably isn’t going to be any possibility of future access anyway.

Now, it’s fair to say that the opposite point may be true too. I’m sure professional journalists will point out that “amateurs” who are given access for the first time may be so in awe that they are tamed and fail to follow through on a story. And, that’s possible as well. But the idea that the “amateurs” can’t chase down a story is being proven untrue over and over and over again.

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Comments on “One Benefit To Participatory Media: They Don't Care About Access”

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Jake says:

“…in that they know they need access and quotes in the future from certain sources, and thus reporters will often self-censor stories to maintain relationships with their sources.”
But does that necessarily constitute bad journalism? Suppose you were to interview a Universal or Time-Warner employee for a Techdirt post and hinted at things they’d said off the record about file-sharing? It wouldn’t be you that ended up out of work and blacklisted by all the big names.
Okay, so arguably politicians, industrialists and anyone else who has permission from the boss to be interviewed is fair game. But I’ve heard some pretty ‘aggressive’ interviews from the professionals, and wondered why anyone bothers to talk to them at all; they ask leading questions, put words in their subject’s mouth and sometimes won’t even let the other guy finish his sentence. Putting your source on the defensive and coming across as a pushy jerk is bad journalism whether you’re a pro or a spare-timer.

Josh says:

Re: Re:


By what logic are you able to imply that the source that gives a quote “off the record” is going to end up out of work and that those quotes are not seen in stories by professional-journalists?

We see those kinds of quotes all the time in news stories. Stories that say something about a highly placed governement offical is quoted as giving us numbers about something but then they say they can’t tell us who because it was “off the record”. So the same can be done by bloggers. But it’s the bloggers that are less scared about getting reinvited to an event, as Mike says, that may be more willing to ask the tough questions and then print them, compared to the pro that has to think about getting up for work again in the morning. The blogger doesn’t usally have to worry that his blog is his only source of income.

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