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.