Criticism of citizen journalism

Here’s some interesting criticism of newspapers doing citizen journalism:

As papers increase local coverage, they’ll simply have that many more people out reporting–and that many more potential mistakes.

In fact, citizen journalism is not new. Back in the 90s, when it was the nation’s largest newspaper chain, Thomson Newspapers tried it and found it totally unworkable.

If citizen journalism didn’t work for Thomson, what makes Gannett think it’s going to work now, asks Dr. Frank Fee Jr., associate professor and director of UNC’s master’s program School of Journalism and Mass Communications.

“It goes back to the days of country correspondents or stringers. They are limited in what they can do, and newspapers have never been very good about training those people,” says Fee, who has 35 years of daily newspaper experience.

Fee sees myriad problems. “There are all sorts of disruptions, including the fact that it’s going to be that much more difficult to find a citizen journalist if you have a question on deadline.”

But what Fee sees as the big issue is one of credibility, and the need of papers to protect their credibility.

“I have seen some horrendous mistakes made by people who don’t know what they are doing,” he says. “There is every opportunity for lots of things to fall through the cracks. I would be interested in seeing where we are with this in six months.”

You will never get far with me arguing that we shouldn’t do something because there is risk associated with it. The last thing we should do is be risk averse. People who make this argument don’t, I think, understand disruption. The logical question is, if we don’t make a place for citizen content, who will? The answer, somebody, and they’ll beat us in the long run (in fact, already are).

I got this link through Lucas Grindley, who writes:

Too often we assume that everyone in the newspaper understands its slow march toward bankruptcy. But the truth is reporters and editors need constant reminding that things aren’t going well financially.

I read a great essay from Harvard Business Review a year ago about managing in times of change, which includes the need to communicate a sense of urgency. I recommend it to newsroom managers. In this day and age, if you work at a newspaper and value your career, you need to understand business and how things are changing. Again, I refer you to these five books.

UPDATE: Steve Yelvington has another take on Dr. Frank Fee’s comments.

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2 thoughts on “Criticism of citizen journalism

  1. Yes, “risk” is key. Reminds me of the Guy Kawasaki videos you posted on here and how he talked about certain companies didn’t follow some kind of standard business model: something like that…

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