The Right to Write

March 13, 2008

OK, so I forgot another blog topic.  Use the powers of teh Interwebz, put on your citizen journalist press card hat and expose my negligence, why don’t you?

 I, as usual, am torn as to what I think about citizen journalism.  Generally, I think it’s an exciting concept.  Are world, national or local events the property of a group of select individuals who are employed by some body to provide the rest of us with information?  It would seem anyone, by virtue of being literate and alive, should be allowed to participate in the spreading and sharing of information.

Perhaps as a [mildly] trained journalist, I have just taken too great offense at what’s happened to information in the hands of what one might call professional citizen journalists.  We live in a world in which a great many people get their news from Rush Limbaugh or Jon Stewart.  A complete moron and a comedian, respectively.  There’s not always a recognoition that the information gained from such programs is opinion, or at least news presented from a very specific point of view. 

That doesn’t mean such information is completely useless.  Well, no.  Rush Limbaugh is compltely useless.  But in a broad sense, such programs aren’t necessarily a threat to real news reporting, if it’s kept in its proper perspective.  When traditional, allegedly objective journalism is increasingly in the hands of a very small group of monied interests, the idea of citizen journalism is incredibly attractive.  In my opinion, empowering many at the expense of a few is never really a bad idea. 

But there should be a way to embrace the armchair reporter without displacing those who have spent years learning, thinking, analyzing and writing in the same way we’ve been able to embrace alternative therapies, college athletics and “Central Perk” without completely dismissing modern medicine, Peyton Manning or the 47 Starbucks outlets within a block of each of our homes.  There can, should and must be a place for the diverse views of hundreds of millions of pairs of eyes, as long as we understand there’s a difference between Joe Schmoe typing away in his mother’s basement and Tom Brokaw (who has his own basement to type in).   

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