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.
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Filed Under: citizen journalism, fact checking

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 May 2010 @ 11:07pm


    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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