Sorry Journalists, We Don’t Need You Anymore

by Jason Falls |

The facts are these:

  • Paid newspaper subscriptions have been steadily declining by a 2-3 percent rate every six months since 2005 (Editor & Publisher)
  • Several major daily newspapers including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Miami Herald and Dallas Morning News have experienced steeper declines in subscriptions in 2007. (Editor & Publisher)
  • Viewership for evening news has decreased one million viewers per year for 25 straight years (Nielsen Media Research)
  • 2007 featured the least-watched week in recorded history for the big four television networks (Associated Press)

And now, as if journalism needed more impetus to just give up and stay home, there has emerged an outpost for citizen journalism online. The Issue hit the blogosphere in the spring and has now begun to collect a following. What is it? According to its “About” statement:

The Issue is a non-partisan blog newspaper that provides a window to an emerging world of diverse and informed opinions. We cull the blogosphere for its wise insights, probing analyses, and diverse perspectives, drawing together a borderless newspaper. By combining the democratization and diversity of new media with the format and editorial standards of traditional news, we hope to offer a hybrid news source that provides the best of both worlds.

IFirst Linerst is a “news source” of bloggers.

Credibility be damned. Training and ethics, unimportant.

Thomas Jefferson once said, “Our liberty depends upon the freedom of the press.” Well, the press is now, officially free … to look for work. We’ve got bloggers in newspaper-esque format and no longer have a need for you, you … journalists!

With much less sarcasm, I must say The Issue is an interesting collection of some of the most vibrant voices around the Internet speaking passionately and eloquently of the issues most important to us today. Many of the blogs they use are written by wholly qualified pundits and thinkers on the respective topics their articles represent. The viewspaper (to coin a term) claims to choose their content carefully and cites “well-researched” as one important quality. From what I can tell, that’s accurate. What I say below is not directly aimed at The Issue, which is well worth your time to discover if you haven’t already.

However, the principle of choosing bloggers to offer definitive coverage of the topics of the day bothers me. The notion that citizen journalism is or can even try to replace the great art of pyramid inversion is simply ridiculous.

What I’m saying is Citizen Journalism is crap.

Read many entries on topical and current event blogs and you will find one consistent underlying fact: few of these people gleaned most of their knowledge of the subject matter first-hand. They read about it in their newspaper or similar news source’s website. They watched it on their television. They listened to others discuss it on their radio talk shows. They don’t always cite sources appropriately, not only because they aren’t trained to do so, but because they’re so enamored with their own opinion, they forget where it was formulated in the first place.

Everyone can be a pundit from behind their desk. Put most issues bloggers on the front line of having to discover the facts of a story while weeding out spin and positioning, asking hard questions of not-so-nice people, doing it on a deadline or, to magnify the point, trying to do so while being shot at, and you’ll have a room full of men and women with soiled underwear.

This is not to say that a journalist loses credibility by becoming a blogger. Nor is it to say that a blogger can’t practice journalism. However, just because you write about an issue doesn’t mean you are a credible source.

Yes, traditional media outlets and the journalists they employ are struggling to maintain relevance in this, the dawning of the age of social media. However, our knowledge and understanding of all the things we pontificate about is given breadth and depth by real journalists. Let us not fool ourselves into thinking we are like them. Because without them, we know nothing.

Other Posts You’ll Find Interesting:

  1. Citizen Journalism Takes A Step Forward
  2. The End Of Journalism
  3. User Generated Content And The Threat To Journalism
  4. Twitterquake And Citizen Journalism
  5. David Reich: Citizen Journalists: A Good Thing … Sort Of

IMAGE:First Liners” by novecentino on Flickr.

[tags]citizen journalism, journalism, bloggers, news sources, media, media outlets, credibility, journalists, viewspaper[/tags]


About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).