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Networking Journalism, Pro and Amateur

Jeff Jarvis isn’t happy with the expression “citizen journalism,” and says:

“Networked journalism” takes into account the collaborative nature of journalism now: professionals and amateurs working together to get the real story, linking to each other across brands and old boundaries to share facts, questions, answers, ideas, perspectives. It recognizes the complex relationships that will make news. And it focuses on the process more than the product.

Not a bad distinction. But the most vital part of this is the fact that it leads us to a better informed citizenry. That is the ultimate goal, at least in my thinking.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines “citizen” in four ways:

1. A person owing loyalty to and entitled by birth or naturalization to the protection of a state or nation.
2. A resident of a city or town, especially one entitled to vote and enjoy other privileges there.
3. A civilian.
4. A native, inhabitant, or denizen of a particular place: “We have learned to be citizens of the world, members of the human community” (Franklin D. Roosevelt).
I’m a proud American (even when I’m not proud of my nation’s official actions or its political leaders). I am a citizen, for sure, in the first definition.

But in this context I use the word more to reflect the other definitions, not just as one who is a formal citizen of a nation-state. In a globalizing world, the distinction is less important than it used to be — not unimportant, by any means, but no longer necessarily the defining status of a human being. Before this radical evolution is over, in a few decades, formal citizenship may seem almost quaint.

The citizens I refer to are members of communities, large and small, geographic and interest-based. We inform each other, using networks and other tools.

Citizenship carries responsibility in any community. Indeed, the idea of being responsible to one’s self and one’s neighbors (virtual or otherwise) is an essential part of what I’m trying to accomplish.

So while I’m all for “networked journalism,” I’m also going to stick with “citizen journalism” — because in the end journalism is a service, not just a method.

9 Comments on “Networking Journalism, Pro and Amateur”

  1. #1 jr
    on Jul 5th, 2006 at 1:39 pm

    Jeff mentioned “professionals and amateurs working together.”

    The Cornell Lab of Ornithology offers “citizen science” projects. From their CitSci page:

    “What is citizen science? It is a partnership between the public and professional scientists. People across the continent are gathering data to better understand and conserve birds.”

    “From backyards and city streets to remote forests, anyone who counts birds can contribute to the Lab’s research. Data from the projects are used to monitor bird populations and outline conservation efforts.”

  2. #2 Michael Levin
    on Jul 5th, 2006 at 4:07 pm

    I like your definition of citizen journalism and descriptions such as “the citizens I refer to are members of communities, large and small, geographic and interest-based” and “being responsible to one’s self and one’s neighbors.”

    However the term “citizen journalism” seems trickier to use in a community where a very large number of residents may be involved in the community but are not citizens in the narrower interpretation of the word.

    Too bad there can’t be a footnote attached explaining what you do mean by citizenship and what you don’t mean. I suppose one could jsut jump in with citizen joutrnalism and use any objections that came up as opportunities to explain what the term mean in this context as you have used it.

  3. #3 Seth Finkelstein
    on Jul 5th, 2006 at 9:56 pm

    The most neutral and standard English term would be “volunteer” – look at the phrase: ” … is a service …”.

    Now, there’s nothing wrong with volunteerism, it’s a noble activity. However, it’s also recognized as limited in scope and somewhat of an extra in most people’s lives. Which is why I believe there’s a strong impulse to try to replace the descriptive term with one which sells better, to serve the interests of the efforts of those attempting to build projects on top of volunteer work.

  4. #4 Notes from a Teacher: Mark on Media » Wednesday squibs
    on Jul 5th, 2006 at 10:17 pm

    […] Networked journalism. Jeff Jarvis offers a new term to replace the hotly-disputed “citizen journalism.” Terry Heaton points to the origins of an idea with much broader application than just journalism. UPDATE: Dan Gillmor writes why he’ll continue to use the term citizen journalism. He makes a lot of sense, as always. […]

  5. #5 Jon Garfunkel
    on Jul 6th, 2006 at 7:38 pm

    Well, certainly you have branding reasons to stick with Citizen Media.

    But, evaluation Jarvis’s comment, first you need to decide whether it’s media or journalism you’re after. And media is easier. Because while “citizens” can aspire to do journalism, other important entities in society– businesses, organizations, governments, cannot be so presumptuous to invest in an effort and call it “journalism.” (Unless, as Nick Confessore wrote three years ago about TechCentralStation, they wish to launder it through journo-lobbying web publications).

    So suppose we replace citizens media with… “networked media.” It just sounds like the physical hardware used. Or it sounds too much like “network.” Sorry, it’s not going to stick.

    I have instead been using Constructive Media for 2+ years now. I’ve been discussing it with some new media practitioners and communications theorists, and I’ve been slowly promoting it. It describes best what I’m doing, and what many others are doing as well.

  6. #6 Douglas K Smith
    on Jul 7th, 2006 at 5:02 am

    The Shared Idea Of Citizen…

    Dan Gillmor is a highly respected commentator on the subject of citizen journalism and, among other things, how citizen journalism will/might affect the ongoing shifts in the world of news organizations. This week, he responded to the proposed shift in…

  7. #7 Anna Haynes
    on Jul 10th, 2006 at 11:27 am

    methinks we have covered this ground, in distributed fashion, zillions of times now.

    Cornell ornithology’s long-running Citizen Science program.

    “Citizen” is the new “amateur” (and will develop the same connotations over time)

  8. #8 Online Dating Blog » Blog Archives » “networked journalism” or “citizen journalism”
    on Jul 11th, 2006 at 8:12 am

    […] Archived in Web/Tech, Current Affairs, academic studies, citizen journalism | Trackback | | Top OfPage […]

  9. #9 alan macleese
    on Jul 25th, 2006 at 1:53 pm

    Once we put a name on the reporter of the future, then we must realize that the folks that respond will not, it is earnestly hoped and believed, be carbon copies of the reporters that we now know all too well. The platoons of reporters of the future may only one-percenters, but they will be truthseekers because, well, just because some of us are like that. Enough of us are like that.
    So we needn’t think that we need to advise these people, this one percent, on how to act or how to think and how to do the right things, because they will not be in the ranks if they are not of the right stuff. And we, most of us reading this, know what constitutes the right stuff, we all have bullshsit detectors, we are not infallible but we know what we know because we have read the books and walked the walks. SO the issue of money should not arise, because, yes, right-thinking groups, will finance an altruistic movement once they, with wild surmise, say here is one, perhaps a bunch of honest folks trying to do what we all said we wanted to do: comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
    And we who install these people, and these good people themselves, will keep each other honest and it won’t be all that hard. Jeff Jarviss and Jay Rosen and the others are pioneers and either are capable of leading this charge, and it is, indeed, a paradigm shift, and it feels kind of great to feel that maybe I can be a part of it. Al MacLeese, Hallowell Maine