Digital Journalist: There is no such thing as a citizen journalist

A Digital Journalist editorial argues that citizen journalism should be abolished:

There are many people who think they can replace professional visual journalists. Citizen journalist is a misnomer. There is no such thing. There are citizens and there are journalists. Everybody can be one of the former, but to be called a journalist means that you are a professional. Either you have been schooled in journalism, or you have ‘paid your dues,’ rising slowly through the ranks.

But it’s not clear whose argument the editorial is countering. Howard Owens, publisher of the Batvian, responds sharply in the comments, a reply which is worth an Editors’ Pick in its own right:

[Y]ou state, “There are many people who think they can replace professional visual journalists.” Yet you provide not one verified quote to substantiate the claim, nor, more importantly one link to support this statement. I challenge you to prove its true, rather than a bald face unsubstantiated assertion – the kind of sloppy reporting you claim to abhor.

Owens also provides some interesting details on ‘citizen journalist’ equivalents of the past.

Full post at this link…

5 thoughts on “Digital Journalist: There is no such thing as a citizen journalist

  1. Alec Doyle

    I agree with the Digital Journalist editorial. In the quest to cut costs the unique skills of professional journalists are being diluted. User generated copy is not anywhere near the required standard for publication, but it is published anyway.
    Reporters are being told to encourage more user generated copy, something which means we will eventually be seen as surplus to requirements.
    Anyone who argues newspapers will retain trained journalists to work alongside UGC should look at the way companies are cutting off funding for shorthand training. This is what happens when non-journalists sit at the top of the editorial tree.

  2. Rollo

    This stopped being a debate about three years ago. A journalist can be professional or non-professional (citizen). A journalist is correctly identified by practices (fact-checking, citation, balance, rigour etc.) and not by employment status or membership of exclusive clubs and guilds.

  3. Alc Doyle

    A citizen cannot be a journalist any more than they can be a police officer.
    Police officers are trained and have legal rights as a result of that training. So do journalists. In many sensitive democratic institutions, such as family court, the public are not allowed to attend but journalists are, as bona fide representatives of the public, to ensure justice is seen to be done.
    To claim all a journalist is is someone who publishes having checked facts and written with balance has never read a tabloid, which frequently does neither.
    However, if professional journalists are replaced with citizens (I won’t call them journalists as they are not), then access to some of the most important areas of governance and justice will be shut down and the accountability of public bodies will be sacrificed.

  4. Rollo

    The problem is that a lot of worthy journalism is now done by “non-journalists”, which poses a problem for your argument. These people are annoyed about not being taken seriously, and they’re right to be. But yes, you have a point about the practical importance of privileged access in holding power to account.

  5. Alc Doyle

    Fair enough, but if they want to be taken seriously, they should get trained up and challenge other journalists on an equal playing field, not offer themselves up as free labour and give editors license to make hundreds of well-trained reporters redundant in a quest to cut costs.
    If someone wants to be a journalist, learn to be a journalist, properly. Do your shorthand, get your certificate, do your time on the ground at the unglamorous end and if you’re good enough, no problem.

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