So yeah, I'm taking an on-line journalism course on line at my old Alma Mater, Umass. This was Friday's assignment.
A search for the truth drives those who would call them selves “citizen journalists.” And holding up a mirror to reflect what actually occurs at an event is now far easier because of technology—digital cameras, cell phones with built in video, micro-cassette recorders, etc.
Plus the Internet makes publication for the whole world to see just a click away.
But facts still matter. The old “who, what, when, where and why” still matter. And yes, for God sake spell names correctly because somebody will notice, and they’re going to think “If you can’t spell my name correctly what other facts did you mess up.”
When it first made the literary scene in the late 60’s and early 1970’s New Journalism, where a writer immersed themselves in the actual story, was viewed by journalism purists as a red headed bastard stepchild.
But with talented writers like Joan Didion, Truman Capote, and Norman Mailer to name a few, it proved to be more than a passing fad. The New Media journalist has a tremendous advantage with new technology and can capture actual scenes instantly thus relying less on writing skills and more on layout.
A good lead, however, still matters—as does a catchy headline. And these days a citizen journalist can’t rely on a photo editor or headline editor, which of course can be good or bad. But who better to chose a headline or photo than the person who actually wrote the article?
Since most Citizen Journalists are not paid a salary obviously their motivation is similar to an Olympic athlete who does things for the love of the sport.
And yes in spite of some of the recent articles about competition between mainstream media and citizens journalists being a thing of the past competition is a powerful motivator. I hate to say it but I dearly love scooping my local newspaper (not that it’s all that hard to do).
About the only good thing to come out of the 2004 Presidential election was the common use of the term “core.” (I think it came up in a negative sense in ads paid for by the Swift Boat Veterans against John Kerry and he made the huge mistake of not responding instantly but—for the sake of this discussion-- that is irreverent.)
Core is an all or nothing thing. You either have it or you don’t. And being motivated by altruistic principals goes a long way to ensure you do indeed have one (although it’s nice to bring home a paycheck at the same time).
Bobby Kennedy once said something to the effect that if a politician really, really believes in the message then they should be able to present it without a script or (if they had them back then) a teleprompter. Extemporaneous speaking often comes from the heart.
On the day Martin Luther King was assassinated (4 April 1968) Bobby was in the middle of his ill-fated Presidential run and against the wishes of his advisers got up on a flatbed truck and spoke from the heart to a predominantly African American crowd in Indianapolis, Indiana in what was supposed to be a routine campaign stop.
He broke the horrible news off-the-cuff and ever so eloquently, closing with a message of non-violence. That night Indianapolis was one of the few cities not to go up in flames.
No, I don’t honestly think Citizen Journalists or bloggers are the reincarnation of Bobby Kennedy—but many of them share the same ideals: to dream things and say, why not?