M.Report S01E25 – The Intersection between Citizen Journalism and Traditional Media

This is my contribution to the journalism workshop I am attending at the moment where I was privileged to be on the panel discussing the intersection between the old and new media. On the panel with me were Emmabenji (emmabenji.canalblog.com, tunisia), Mohammed Zainabi (zainabi.com, morocco), Yazid Haddar (psycho.dzblog.com, algeria) and Daoud Kuttab (ammannet.net, jordan – visiting professor at Princeton Uni).

Considering that the basic human activity of communication, has been with us since the first human painted on cave walls, it’s surprising that when it comes to a modern activity of writing on a largely personal online diary, elicits such a need as to pigeon-hole people and their generated thoughts into categories such as “journalism” or any other adjectives.

This – I feel – has been given rise by society and maybe mainstream media in particular, to distinguish themselves as “the” source for news and valid opinion, while any other is simply invalid or at least less worthy of consideration.

History tells us that this is the same reaction when the radio first started its mainstream transmission with the reaction of newsprint, and also when television was first introduced and it received its fare share of ridicule by newsprint, radio and even the theatre!

Maybe by pigeon-holing, mainstream media think they can “wheedle out” the good from the bad, again thinking in that ubiquitous “black and white” methodology, a condescending approach by assuming that they alone can select what is good for us.

But with such a huge platform, it is impossible to apply these methods. Old metrics simply won’t do. What we have now is a huge crowd-sourced material, terabytes of information which is published every single day, and with the way that the fusion of communication methods currently experienced – text, audio, video, animation, and photographs – this trend will only escalate.

Yes, traditional media is supposed to have the safeguards to at least distinguish between fact and opinion, but in today’s connected world this is not so critical.

The point; therefore, is not simple to try to draw a line between a blog and main-stream media to achieve distinction and simple categorisation, but employ critical thinking and other skills to evaluate what is being presented, regardless of source.

What blogs provide is a huge base of crowd sourced information. Sifting through that information and evaluating it is not a small exercise, but categorising it with the old “journalistic standards” will not achieve much. We have to recognise that with this wealth of published information, decision makers have a new tool that they can employ which they never had access to before:

What we have now – thanks to the explosion of blogging – is an ocean of raw data, one if mined properly, could give them an excellent understanding of the feelings and needs of “normal people” – the street – that traditional media with its inbuilt sanitorial control could never give them.

How one uses that facility, it is up to them.

  • Ali
    25 May 2008

    With so much information available on the internet,the challange facing the next generation will education. For every point of view, there are hundreds of opposites, for every religion, dozens of alternative truths and for every scientific truth there a myriad of theories out there on the net which appear genuine.

    How do you teach a young person to be discerning. How do you teach youngsters to be wary of what they see hear and discover on the net? Remember the pyramids on Mars when the net first started to become prolific in people lives?

    I wonder how many cave paintings were propoganda put out there to mislead the old cave dwellers about other more greener grasses,how many remembered and written stories about the multitude of prophets were in fact fabrications of lesser truths designed to keep an inquisitive population quiet, and how many times in our long past have we all too easily believed the “media” of the age.

    Blogs, websites, internet radio are all just a natural extension of human development, and will manipulated by those in power just like before.

    So sadly Mahmood, you may believe you are independent but you are just a small facet on a multi sided structure, one grain of sand in the scales and just a tiny point of view to be averaged out in the general scheme of things.

    I think the challenge now is how to make a difference without sacrificing truth.

  • loki
    25 May 2008

    I would say that the internet as a media often provides a disproportionate amount of “air time / bandwidth” to marginalized groups. This can give a distorted view of how prominent that view point is. E.g. radical right groups, conspiracy theorists, UFOs, etc. Small groups have a habit of shouting very loudly.

    In addition many groups have almost automated the process of responding to postings that criticizes their stance. This again makes it appear that they are prevalent than they actually are.

    my 2 cents.

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