Citizen versus Seasoned Journalist

Ron Steinman argues that while the era of the "the anchor for a news show as icon" is dead, there remains a role for "qualified" journalists. See his column "Twenty-One Minutes" in the January issue of The Digital Journalist.

Do more people turn to the Internet with its
multitude of Web sites and journalist wannabes for their news? It is
hard to say, but the audience for news on the Web is growing. Some
blogs, the latest innovation born of the infinite space of the Web, and
the desire for personal expression, do connect with their niche
audiences, mostly on a visceral level. Yes, blogs occasionally break
news. Yes, blogs are an alternative to mainstream or traditional news
but they are often turgid and out of control. We must discriminate in
how we use them. Most bloggers only comment, often by the seat of their
pants. Blogs do not have the capability to gather news, which must come
from somewhere. But blogs, despite their problems, have become a part
of our life.

My problem,
like many in our busy world, is finding the time to read everything.
Lately I hear that people are using eight as the limit of blogs and Web
sites they read and connect with over the course of a day or at any one
sitting. Qualified journalists must continue to gather the news and
disseminate it without, hopefully, prejudice. Journalism is an
honorable craft and something that mainstream news organizations,
peopled by trained reporters and editors, usually do well. They
supplied the news in the past. They do it now, and they will do it in
the future. Ultimately, news gathered by skilled reporters, published
in newspapers and on mainstream Web sites will be there for any
interpretation the reader chooses. People will decide the value of the
news they read based on their own preferences.

The archives of Digital Journalist are also worth a look for Evan Nisselson’s May 2003 piece "Why will wireless camera phones revolutionize the photography industry?" Nisselson, a professional photographer, admitted that there are times he would rather carry a camera phone than his regular camera, but he also told the story of a friend with two children who did not have time to print, upload and email any of the hundreds of photos she had taken. "The reality is that digital photography hasn’t made it easier to visually communicate, yet…"

I agree that the BBC probably had different agendas from saving money to interactive programming but I strongly believe that photographers shouldn’t feel threatened by consumer photographers because the creative eye and skills of most professional photographers are far superior. Publishers will always need them to succeed.
Professional photographers already compete with the public when it comes to photographing news events because publishers often publish public news photos. Cell cameras might make it easier for the public to make news worthy pictures.

Some in the blogosphere noted (and rightfully marveled at) how raw text and video footage of the Asian tsunami came more quickly from bloggers than the professional media, but this is part of what I would call event-driven public coverage. Most citizen bloggers will become journalists primarily or solely when they are on-hand observers or participants in an event. The Internet provides them ready tools, but it is a leap to believe that most people will commit that much in time and resources to be full-time journalists, whether paid or unpaid. Instead, the bulk of meaningful, regular commentary will come from professional journalists or committed, passionate amateurs.

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