Saturday, December 15, 2007

J School Prof on Citizen Journalists

In an Atlanta Journal column University of Georgia Grady School of Journalism Professor David Hazinski says what people like me and many of you are doing “opens up information flow to the strong probability of fraud and abuse.” He wants the “news industry” to find “some way to monitor and regulate” citizen journalism.

What follows are excerpts from Hazinski’s column, comments by two other bloggers, and finally a few comments by me along with a “risky” proposal.

Now, Hazinski:

[…]Supporters of "citizen journalism" argue it provides independent, accurate, reliable information that the traditional media don't provide.

While it has its place, the reality is it really isn't journalism at all, and it opens up information flow to the strong probability of fraud and abuse. The news industry should find some way to monitor and regulate this new trend.

The premise of citizen journalism is that regular people can now collect information and pictures with video cameras and cellphones, and distribute words and images over the Internet.

Advocates argue that the acts of collecting and distributing makes these people "journalists." This is like saying someone who carries a scalpel is a "citizen surgeon" or someone who can read a law book is a "citizen lawyer." Tools are merely that.

Education, skill and standards are really what make people into trusted professionals. Information without journalistic standards is called gossip.

So without any real standards, anyone has a right to declare himself or herself a journalist. Major media outlets also encourage it. Citizen journalism allows them to involve audiences, and it is a free source of information and video. But it is also ripe for abuse.[…]

Journalism organizations should head that off. Citizen reports can be a valuable addition to news and information flow with some protections:

• Major news organizations must create standards to substantiate citizen-contributed information and video, and ensure its accuracy and authenticity.

• They should clarify and reinforce their own standards and work through trade organizations to enforce national standards so they have real meaning.

• Journalism schools such as mine at the University of Georgia should create mini-courses to certify citizen journalists in proper ethics and procedures, much as volunteer teachers, paramedics and sheriff's auxiliaries are trained and certified.[…]
Hazinski closes with:
Continuing to do nothing as information flow changes will further erode it. Journalism organizations who choose to do nothing may soon find the line between professional and citizen journalism gone as well as the trust of their audiences.
Next, with a hat tip to The Opinionator let's hear from citizen journalist Chuck Simmins at the North Shore Journal:
As I read the piece, Professor Hazinski is calling for standards and regulation of “citizen journalists”, bloggers and Matt Drudge types.

He admits that there is little or no such standards and regulation for those he calls journalists. But, we’re the real danger here.

Professor, I am insulted.

When I look at the world of journalists, the men and women that you educate and graduate, I see little sign that ethics and standards are practiced.

Anonymous sources, misstatements of fact, misquoting, staging photographs, outright falsifying of documents, and lack of fact checking are rife in journalism today.

I, and those like me, could hardly do worse. Indeed, we do better …

There are dozens of other stories that I’ve covered, that the old media ignored or reported incorrectly.

Other bloggers discovered and reported on Dan Rather’s creative use of forged documents, Reuters’ staging photos in Beirut, AP’s repeated bogus reporting of incidents in Iraq, and The New Republic’s utter failure to fact check a series of stories.

Let’s not forget the murders and rapes in the New Orleans Superdome that never happened. There’s lots more, frauds and mistakes by journalists, journalists that graduated from institutions like the one Professor Hazinski teaches at.[...]
Here's another blogger, University of Tennessee School of Law Professor Glenn Reynolds, at Instapundit responding to Hazinski's concern that “without any real standards, anyone has a right to declare himself or herself a journalist,” Glenn Reynolds explains
Yep. Which is pretty much how it works now. Journalism isn’t a profession, it’s an activity — and often those who engage in it for a living act pretty unprofessionally. Or just write lame, self-serving columns.
Folks, I give Hazinski a few points for: 1) acknowledging professional journalists haven't adopted and enforced ethical standards; and 2) for being right when he says citizen journalism is ripe for abuse.

Other than that his column amounts to "missed shots."

Formal education in journalism may be of some use but it's not essential to being a fine journalist. Winston Churchill never went to J School but he was an outstanding journalist.

How much formal education did Ben Franklin have?

On the other hand, I think it's a safe bet most of the professional journalists who helped launch and sustain the Duke Hoax had a good deal of professional training. The same goes for the pros who helped bring us the Jena 6 falsehoods.

Hazinski takes no account of the corrective power that's at work in the blogoshpere: the power you folks who edit bloggers like me bring to what's posted at a blog.

I make a mistake and bingo, one or some of you are right there with a correction.

And bless you for it. You're helping me and other readers.

Now about that "risky" experiment I mentioned at the start of this post: engage in a little citizen journalism. Comment here. Let's see what happens.

I'm looking forward to the "results of the experiment."

Hazinski's column is here.


Anonymous said...

I have worked with old-time street-trained newspapermen, and I've worked with the current flock of preening peafowl from "journalism" schools. The new crowd can't hold a freakin' candle to real reporters. Most of the bloggers I've followed appear to be more in the mold of real reporters, so I trust their ethics more than I trust the ethics of The New York Times, The Washington Post, NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, ad nauseum. I think the opinion you cite reflect stark terror that the writer might find himself totally redundant to the needs of our society. If that's the best shot he can take, he doesn't deserve to be called a newsman.

Anonymous said...

Is Professor David Hazinski a comedian or what? Does anyone still have confidence in the MSM reporting in any form?

One blog I read often highlights the downward spiral of the so-called professionals, and their employers. The news story title is accompanied with the words,
"Dinosaur Media Death Watch.”
Yeah right, professor, get those 'professionals' educated in ethics for sure! (Or is it too late?)

Tribune to lay off 100 workers
La Crosse Tribune lays off 165
And on, and on.

Locomotive Breath said...

Real engineers have had, for years, to put up with their titles being borrowed like "Sanitation Engineer" for garbage-men or "Domestic Engineer" for someone who keeps house.

Real engineers have legal liability when their mistakes damage others. Real engineers have professional registration when they want to foist off their services on an unsuspecting public.

I'll make Hackinski [sic] a deal. You accept those kinds of constraints and then you can call yourself a "professional".

Anonymous said...

Wasn't Phil donahue a prominent journalist?And..and larry king?Not to forget Katie Couric.I think the only term more vague than "journalis" is "therapist"

Anonymous said...

What sort of Journalism credentials do Katie Couric an all the other talking head TV news reporters have? Not much other than being photogenic.

Anonymous said...

Without bloggers, where would we find information about the MSM’s so-called journalism standards?
The Gateway Pundit blogs:
In roughly six and a half weeks the mainstream media reported 6 bogus stories from Iraq and Afghanistan. There certainly could be more.
They all reflected poorly on the US and US military.

Isn't it past time that the media be held accountable for their horrible record? And... Is it really surprising that only 29% of Americans, Germans and Brits trust their media?

Newspapers [with few exceptions] are mostly just bastions of anti-American liberal thought and a means to a paycheck for leftists without hope of employment in the real world.

"Here Here!"