“Citizen journalism” (article by Paul Carr) is slippery. It’s a big category with room for self-involved lookiloos (‘look at me looking at this”, as Paul Carr aptly states) and hopeful, passionate crusaders putting a face and an action to a cause. Some may argue that citizen journalism doesn’t exist. OK, I am one of those people. Applying the name “journalism” allows one to deny their part in a situation, even as an observer, where there is a call to action; to help, to get help. People with cell phones are not journalists. Bloggers aren’t either, unless they are held to journalistic standards and I really don’t know any bloggers with fact checkers or oaths of objectivity. And the power of the camera lets people play a little Dan Rather and dismiss themselves from obligation (“I’m not here, I am just filming this”). You know, to help their fellow man.
I’m not a big cell phone person. So whipping it out in the midst of some notable event doesn’t even cross my mind. But I can understand how, in a moment of perceived oppression, ones mind goes to documentation. Referring to all of this as “citizen journalism” makes it messy. And it certainly does not absolve someone of responsibility or humanity (like the woman Carr discusses in the article).
Watch the “This American Life” clip in the article. The camera changes people.
I guess I disagree with Carr a bit in that there is a time and a place for documentation of events for the greater good. And the human psyche really makes many unqualified to make that judgment call. But if the person looks inside, they know why they are doing it. There’s no doubt in my mind that the army twitterer was excited about *her* “scoop” to the extent of dismissing the dignity of the people involved. Ego motivated for sure. But there are times where someone might truly feel that there is something going on, in public, that the world needs to see.
Because the dividing line is in the head of the picture/video taker, it’s not easy to create pretty categories. But couldn’t we just start with not lumping it all under the same category of “citizen journalism”, which implies a set of standards and protections that really don’t exist?
And,as if I really need to say this, I am not a journalist, not a corporate journalist, not a citizen journalist. I am a person with a keyboard and an opinion, just like you. I would hate for anyone to think that I am paid to be objective! Anyway.