Fort Hood, citizen journalism and journalists as ethicists

Several long-running debates have been added to in a series of blog posts published over the weekend on the coverage on the military shooting at Fort Hood in Texas last week.

Starting with Paul Carr at TechCrunch, who discusses the value that social media and citizen journalism add to such happenings and also what role journalists or indeed cit-j’s should play in such situations – better to capture the moment or offer help?

“For all the sound and fury, citizen journalism once again did nothing but spread misinformation at a time when thousands people with family at the base would have been freaking out already, and breach the privacy of those who had been killed or wounded. We learned not a single new fact, nor was a single life saved,” writes Carr, referring specifically to Twitter updates allegedly coming from one soldier inside the Texas base.

In a rebuttal on Strange Attractor, Suw Charman-Anderson suggests that these issues have been challenging journalism and the news media for a long time:

“The discussion about the impact of social media on people’s privacy, behaviour and ethics has been going on for years, and there have been many, many examples of people using social tools in ways that can only be described as foolish.

“This is not, however, a reflection on social tools so much as it is a reflection of human nature: some of what gets done with social media is good and some is bad. This is not news, nor new.

“We do need some proper studies to see just what sort of effect these new social technologies are having, but going off on a moral panic about social tools is neither smart nor helpful.”

It’s worth reading both pieces in full and the comments left (which back up that these are long-standing points for discussion) – in particular, Howard Owens’ response to Charman-Anderson’s post:

“My response to Carr’s piece seems to be quite different than most other people’s – to me, it’s a reminder for journalists to redouble their role as ethicists. It’s no longer enough for journalist to abide by their own code of ethics, they must educate the public on news ethics, avoid falling into their own ethical lapses related to new technology, and guide ‘citizen journalists’ along the way.

“I didn’t see Carr as calling for an end to cit-j, but as a reminder that not everything with democratic media technology is an unalloyed good. We need some guidelines and thought into how these tools are used, when and where. There needs to be a greater ethical awareness among the public at large and it’s the professional journalists role to help with that process.”

One thought on “Fort Hood, citizen journalism and journalists as ethicists

  1. Ron Ross

    This shows why citizen journalists need training. The National Association of Citizen Journalists provides the training necessary for quality journalism by average citizens.

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