Citizen journalism might try to kill you

Citizen journalism might try to kill you

Summary: The expansion of social media and "blogs" has created more avenues by which we can all communicate, which is great. However, it's also created more opportunities for error.

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Citizen journalism might try to kill youCitizen journalism is often described as a way of policing the content of bona fide news organizations for errors and fairness or community members writing news of their own. Though not without its own faults, as citizen journalism has been the culprit of many inaccuracy crimes over the last handful of years. It's even attempted physical harm -- and poor Steve Jobs didn't know what hit him. It's a serious issue. Serious as a heart attack, even.

One of my biggest frustrations with this notion of people taking reporting into their own hands is the lack of fact-checking and journalistic integrity that comes with it. Not only could it hurt a potential subject or company, i.e. Jobs and Apple, but it can discredit the news agency that proliferates the incorrect message. Yes, even CNN.

The expansion of social media and "blogs" has created more avenues by which we can all communicate, which is great. However, it's also created more opportunities for error. How do we know what is true? And how do we put measurs into effect that better police this content before it goes out?

It appears that some people might be more interested in breaking a story rather than confirming that their facts are accurate. That is a dangerous practice. Is it really worth the page views to create a liability to yourself or the news organization you may drag into this?

We're a society where people are famous for being famous. Young attractive women picking their nose on YouTube can bring 100,000 page views or even a sponsorship contract. Our information priorities are out of whack and we need to get them back on track. There need to be some checks and balances. Plus, anonymous reporting or blogging should just not be tolerated.

Interestingly timed, I received an email this week from a company called gooseGrade, which both enables citizen journalism and also calls its accuracy into question. Writers can install gooseGrade on their blogs and open themselves up to fact-checking and even spelling and grammatical corrections from the readers at large. Bloggers can choose whether or not to take the proposed changes from readers and readers are kept honest by being assigned their own grades that reflect how accurate they really were (rather than just being snooty grammar police).

In theory, I think gooseGrade is onto something. With so many bloggers at large spewing their opinions (like me) and doing copy-paste blogging and not checking their content before publishing, it's no wonder we have so much confusion in getting together as a community, and say, try to elect a president?

Citizen journalists, please be careful. You almost put Jobs in ICU. Let's not do that with anyone else.

Topics: IT Employment, Apple, Browser, CXO

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18 comments
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  • Double edged sword

    Citizen journalism almost sounds like a contradiction. One one hand, so many people nowadays carry a device that can at least take snapshots, but more are taking video. Real journalists can't get to where a story is very fast so it takes time for the story to break through official channels.

    Take the earthquakes we've had recently around the world. CNN reported it a full hour after they happened because it needed to be verified, but when 200 people report an earthquake within a span of a few minutes, changes are there's an earthquake, or SOME kind of natural disaster in that area.

    But then you have people that, as you said, try to be popular. They don't check their facts properly, or worse, they could set the whole thing up as a fake story. I wrote that it could have been someone trying to get the price of Apple down so that he could make a quick buck today. If that's the case, he succeeded.

    So what's the solution? Can there be trusted people on the web that have a better reputation than others? I'm sure something will shake out soon, but CNN needs to be more careful with their iReport section now.
    istarman
    • RE: Citizen journalism might try to kill you

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      just-do-it
  • I'm more worried about

    - profitmaking from goverments' joyful privacy rights
    violations
    - militarized 'law enforcement'

    Rubber bullets, tasers, gas & truncheons are a bit more of
    a threat... thank you for your concern... but when the
    PRESS isn't covering the issues, the People have to do it for
    themselves.

    Ask Amy Goodman.
    BlueBerry Pick'n
    • That is correct!

      [i]Rubber bullets, tasers, gas & truncheons are a bit more of a threat[/i]

      But the bottom line is that I have a zero to miniscule chance that the government will use any of these things on me.

      Statistics show I have a much, much, greater chance of being assulted with one of the above netioned devices by a fellow citizen
      GuidingLight
      • Not Sure About That

        Where are the statistics that support your argument? I have never heard of individuals using rubber bullets (not that it hasn't ever happened). The only use I have heard of for them is by riot Police in riot situations. Same with truncheons. They are almost exclusively associated with the police. Also, only recently are Tasers becoming widely available to average citizens.

        Were you joking?
        Bob C User
  • RE: Citizen journalism might try to kill you

    Put it this way - you can't ask something from a weekend warrior journalist that has been a scarce commodity among the pros for a while now (with few notable exceptions).
    kitko
    • or put in this way.

      Self called "professional" usually commit mistake, sometimes are real mistake but other times are on purpose (for example Fox News and "inexistent" global warming).

      So, really there are a thin line between professional and aficionado, and the main difference is the salary.
      magallanes
      • Big difference

        No, there is a very big difference between a professional news organization and amateur bloggers that goes far beyond whether the reporters are paid or not. The resources which a large news organization can bring to bear dwarf even the largest non-professional blogs such as the Drudge report - which is not exactly amateur.
        Blogs can do a lot of things well, but none have the sheer scope of even a modest broadcast or print operation.
        As far as Fox News is concerned the position many of their commentators take is that global warming is probably happening but it is far from certain that mankind's activities are to blame. In addition their commentators are not reporters, which is a distinction many of their detractors fail to make. Shepard Smith is a reporter, Bill O'Reilly is a commentator.
        Both kinds of operations have a place at the table. It is up to the consumer to figure out how much weight to give information they receive from various sources.
        smoyer@...
  • gooseGrade could itself degrade Journalism

    gooseGrade could itself degrade Journalism, if everybody imposes his/her views/personal opinions, etc.
    Roque Mocan
  • RE: Citizen journalism might try to kill you

    "And how do we put measurs (sic) into effect that better police this content before it goes out?"

    The same way you apparently put measures into effect that police your spelling.
    pueblonative
  • RE: Citizen journalism might try to kill you

    Since the story was false and Jobs didn't need to go to the hospital, the premise of this blog is false. But aside from that, for years I have been reading blogs and news columns where people are screaming for their right to totally unfettered freedom of speech. Advocating that people take responsibility for what they say is complete heresy! For such utterly ridiculous notions, you should be burned on a cyber stake. But a good mouth washing with cyber soap should cure you once and for all. I can't believe that someone is actually saying that people should be responsible for what they say. Seems to me that it is a violation of free speech. Some lawyer should be able to make something out of that (class action anyone?). Horrors, we just cannot have people being responsible. If that were to happen, people might learn some truths, the shock would really kill some of them, and wouldn't that make you an accomplice to mass murder? :) :) :)
    howiem
    • Horrors

      LOL! Very good. Cyber stake....ehehehehehe
      ZenaPrincess
  • Knowledge is power.

    For the last almost eight years the government of the U.S. has been attempting--with such measures as the PATRIOT Act, the Real ID act, various kinds of cyber and domestic spying, etc.--to exercise more and more power over the lives of American citizens. Part of the exercise of power of government is the control of information--the country agreed to go to war with Iraq based in large measure on the infamous WMD mal-information.
    <br><br>
    <i>Anything</i> that might help disseminate more knowledge more widely among more American citizens is a good thing, even if that knowledge isn't necessarily accurate--it just puts individuals in the same position as news organisations of having to check and verify from multiple sources and so on.
    Henry Miller
  • Bloggers and readers, both

    need to do their fact-checking. Regardless as to who a blogger is, or what he has written, readers need to check the facts for themselves. (OK, this has been sadly lacking throughout human history, and probably will never change.)

    When people do actually engage in fact-checking, the next error is not checking primary sources. This is a problem with history as well as journalism. (Heck, it's a serious problem with U.S. K-12 historical textbooks, even discounting for over-simplification and sheer propaganda.)

    Perhaps this Goose thing could be good for fact-checking, depending on how it is set up and how it evolves. Like most things, it can possibly be used in ways not intended by it's creators, with the opposite result of burying facts. I'll hope for the upside, though, it is an interesting concept.

    Thanks for the article.
    seanferd
  • RE: Citizen journalism might try to kill you

    Why are we expecting amature reports to measure up to a standard that even the professionals don't? There is a newspaper in my town that simply will not print a story if it says something negative or implys something negative about our good old town.

    So if I can't get honest, accurate, and timely information from the professionals, exactly where is it that you think I should get it?
    dmhunter@...
  • RE: Citizen journalism might try to kill you

    The fact is; blogging is NOT journalism. We bloggers openly acknowledge that our opinions biases and any 'found' facts are purely our own and speculative. And my readers know that too. They keep a little skeptcism in the back of their minds, just as I do when I go reading. Too bad we didn't do this years ago when big media started lying and airing 'infomercials' for news....we might not be in the shape we're in NOW! Seems ur just making excuses for the lazy people who don't want to go to the trouble of fact-checking for themselves. It's like the guy who bums a cigarette and then bums a light....HEY! Ya want me to smoke that fag for ya too???
    ZenaPrincess
  • Safety in numbers

    There are personal blogs and there are wiki blogs and then their is news.

    I agree our information priorities are out of whack.

    Citizen journalism covers additional stories newspapers won't.

    Seven deadly sins of citizen journalism expand beyond "cut and past blogging", "email to blog", Writing under the influence (anger, alcohol or allusion of facts) to down right bad information and beliefs. Originally people who believed the sun was cold because the outside was so hot where found mostly at parties after too many drinks. Now they get their own webpage.
    ashepard@...
  • Mass media faceplants

    If the conventional mass media hadn't fallen down so hard in the last 15 years, then there would be less of a need for independent media. I happen to read much of my news from respected outlets outside the United States, and compile my own filtered list of links for my friends. I expect my friends, many of whom are scientifically minded, to read and question evidence, and make up their own minds about things.

    For low-information voters who need to be spoon-fed valid information, this blog post is probably well-suited. But for citizens who recognize the societal danger of media ownership consolidation, more independent writing can help lead to better media literacy. We'll all teach each other enough, sooner or later.
    ReverendVictor