Citizen Journalists vs Journalists

By | March 10, 2011

Citizen journalists are usually passionate about what they cover. That’s the problem. As a journalist you can’t be passionate about it because 

  • you are supposed to be impartial (this doesn’t mean you don’t care; it means you listen with a detached but compassionate ear). And I reject arguments that this is not possible. Of course it’s not always possible, but it’s an aspiration. That’s the key difference 
  • you may have to cover something you don’t care about. A professional journalist would cover a topic whether they cared about it or not; that’s what a professional does. 

I’m not rejecting citizen journalism. I’m arguing that citizen journalism is a deeply flawed model if it’s supposed to supplant traditional journalism, because it’s rooted in a misunderstanding of what the profession actually does. 

2 thoughts on “Citizen Journalists vs Journalists

  1. Jeremy Aldrich

    What is a “traditional journalist”? Ben Franklin? William Lloyd Garrison? William Randolph Hearst? Walter Cronkite? Because they all seem to be “deeply flawed” by these standards. The idea that journalists should be dispassionate is written in what holy scripture, and how has it served the interests of humanity?

    I was thinking the other day about how “free press” might mean something very different today from when it was written into the Constitution – those folks were passionate pamphleteers at their presses, not credentialed and bored j-school graduates/

  2. Jeremy Wagstaff

    Jeremy, fair point (I like ‘credentialed and bored’) and I agree a journalist should be passionate. But unless everyone is willing to be a citizen journalist there’s a lot of stuff that needs to be covered, and hopefully by people without a self-interest; who is going to cover that? I teach journalism and the first lesson I teach is to learn to make yourself passionate about a subject and curious to teach yourself about it.


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