The Cyberbrains

Research and contemplation in new media

No big deal — it’s just citizen journalism

My gosh, is user-generated journalism becoming “normalized?”

The end oClyde Bentleyf a term is when professors like me are supposed to assess the work of our students and decree which have passed the muster. At the Missouri School of Journalism, that means watching dozens of presentations summarizing student projects.

It is pleasant, if repetitive, work. Our students study in the “real world” and do their best to address problems they will face as working journalists. You can get a good idea of where the industry is heading by listening to ideas of the folks who will be in the drivers’ seats shortly.

What I heard surprised even me. In almost every presentation, student project teams incorporated “citizen journalism,” “user-generated content,” “reader blogs,” or just “let them write for us.”

Mind you, these were not just students who have been through my citizen journalism class. Quite the opposite. Most of the projects I observed were conducted by students in the newspaper, convergence or broadcast sequences in a quite traditional program.

To my great delight, these young journalists incorporated the audience into their plans as naturally as they incorporated photographs. I never heard citizen journalism described as a radical new idea; it was just a logical strategy to produce a better product. No hand wringing over credibility, professionalism or value. In fact, not a hint of trepidation.

Content contributed by non-journalists was once very common in American journalism. It slipped away after World War II when “professional” became the journalism hallmark. Could it be that we are returning to norm where journalism includes both we who are paid and those who merely think?

Don’t ask me. But I can send you to a host of 20-somethings with answers.

May 15, 2007 - Posted by | Clyde Bentley

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