Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The State of Citizen Journalism

Center for Citizen Media
July 15, 2007
Dan Gillmor of the Center for Citizen Media has written a thoughtful assessment of the current state of citizen journalism. "We've come a long way," he says. "But we have a long, long way to go. We need much more experimentation in journalism and community information projects. The business models are, at best, uncertain — and some notable failures are discouraging." He points to examples of citizen journalism in action such as the following: the infamous "Macaca" video that helped lose last year's election for Virginia Senator George Allen

Placeblogger, which lists thousands of community-focused weblogs.

Pambazuka News, an African podcasting service that calls itself a "weekly forum for social justice in Africa."

Gillmor also notes that some heavily-hyped efforts at commercial citizen journalism have failed, such as and Gillmor's own However, he adds, "The cost of trying new ideas is heading toward zero. That means lots and lots of people will — already are — testing the possibilities of new media. ... So the R&D that the news industry should have done years ago is now being done in a highly distributed way. Yes, some is being done by people inside media companies, but most is not — and increasingly it won't be. It'll take place in universities, in corporate labs, in garages and at kitchen tables."

The growing presence and power of the blogosphere is at once threatening, and destabilizing, while also empowering and resructuring the very meaning and application of journalism. What was earlier dismissed as feeble rantings of "unprofessional" writers and scribes, is now routinely referenced by the MSM as source material or at the very least as citation of popular bleetings or opinion, many times in favor of the MSM's positions or perspectives.

One thing can be certain: it will continue to be a spearhead for citizen participation and democratic reform, though increasingly pressured and even undermined by the old guard whose hegemony is crumbling, even as they attempt to hold on to their monopolistic platforms.