Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Citizen journalists...

I've always been a big fan of the idea that sometimes you have to trick people into doing the right thing.

But sometimes this can turn into mass delusions.

The idea behind "citizen journalism" is fantastic; there's news happening everywhere and always, so go out there and find it. You too can be a reporter/broadcaster/pundit. But it gives a lot of people a false notion that they're finding a purpose instead of just picking up a hobby.

A citizen journalist is just someone who decided to be a normal person and involve themselves in that thing that died sometime in the 90's. What is it? Oh yeah. COMMUNITY.

I'm not getting bent out of shape because I've spent two years of my life studying journalism and plan to do more of the same. I really enjoy the idea of people getting involved in the larger world that surrounds their living rooms.

But citizen journalists?

I just cooked myself a pretty decent dinner that didn't come out of a box so that must mean I'm a citizen chef. And when I clean my kitchen afterwards, maybe then I've magically transformed into a citizen maid.

I guess citizen journalists got the name because it benefits more than just themselves. And it also gives them a larger sense of purpose when they force themselves to look at the world around them.

"I'm not interacting normally with people in my community, I'm a citizen journalist and I've got a job to do!"

It sounds like mental masturbation. What else would you call a job that pays in nothing but feeling better about yourself?

The creation of citizen journalism can tell you a lot about the state of media though. No one trusts or believes journalists. Apparently regular journalists are bottom-feeding attention whores who's only goal is to steal your story, muck about with your words and paint you out to be a bigger dick than you could ever make yourself out to be.

And regular journalists are so tremendously terrible at it that ordinary people are jumping in to take over what has apparently become a completely incompetent industry.

What's worse is that citizen journalists are almost needed. The people we ultimately work for are not happy with the quality of work we're putting out there.

Every reporter I've ever met has had the same "live to work" philosophy. I've been told again and again that if I don't absolutely love the job I'll never make it.

Ten years ago a City Hall reporter would write roughly 150 stories a year. Plenty of time to look at a story and tell it right while still building relationships with your sources. Today, city beat journalists are told to act as if their deadline is NOW for every story they write (which has increased to about 350 stories a year.)

I've conducted interviews that were so rushed there was no way I could come off as anything but a complete leech. This is no way to run any type of news organization.

But there are rules and guidelines for journalism that citizens can't just make up, just as someone couldn't simply pick up a hammer and some lumber, call themselves a citizen contractor and go build a house thinking it would pass code.

By far my biggest beef with the giant, veiny erection calling itself citizen journalism is that people are mind-fucking themselves into thinking their doing a job when they should have always been out there talking to people, hearing new opinions, thinking for themselves and integrating into a society thus helping to create that long-lost thing known as a culture.

We need less citizen journalists and more plain citizens.