cit•i•zen jour•nal•ismnoun1. the collection, dissemination, and analysis of news and information by the general public, especially by means of the Internet.
The problem that I have with this phrase is that the word “Journalism” is part of it. This is a problem because much of what is referred to as “Citizen Journalism” is, in fact, neither. When I was in my Broadcasting Study at UCF, the definition of “Journalism” would have run something like the Google definition provided above.
Much of what passes for “Citizen Journalism” these days is nothing more than partisan rhetoric being spread by people who uncritically collect and disperse it. Why else would we STILL be discussing a widely discredited and heavily edited video that purports to show a woman’s healthcare clinic committing a crime?
Of course, if the professional media cannot be held accountable to journalistic ethics, how can the “Citizen Journalists?” The media are constantly reporting rumor and supposition as news. The wall between opinion and news in journalism is purely hypothetical these days. One network continues to justify the bloviating of their most popular figures by claiming that the shows they are on are “opinion.” By even a cursory study of their “News” programming shows that the same “Opinions” are widely reported as “news” often by simply repeating the “opinion” verbatim and unlabeled – implying if not outright stating that this “opinion” is fact.
And the so-called “Liberal Media” is no different. Not only do study-after-study of the “liberal” media show that their coverage is increasingly one-sided toward the Right, but they also have abandoned the journalistic separation from commerce that was another hallmark of Journalism that I learned. Increasingly “News” stories are very thinly veiled commercial content.
If our “Journalists” cannot be held to a system of Journalistic Ethics, how can out “Citizen Journalists!?” People seem to be incapable these days of overcoming their personal confirmation bias. They seek out things that agree with their personal point of view, and then – finding it, for that is one thing that the The Internet is good at – uncritically spreading it. It seems that family and friends are constantly sharing things that five seconds of Google searches will show are non-factual. Satire is one thing, but spreading a “News” item that is demonstrably untrue is another.
Until and unless we get some healthy incredulity in the media – and by extension in ourselves – those of us who care whether something is true or not must continue to take everything with a grain – check that, make that a mine – of salt.
Wherever you are today, I hope that you’ll be able to spot Fact from Fiction before you become complicit in the spreading of falsehood!