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93. Citizens As Budding Reporters And Editors (1999)

93. Citizens As Budding Reporters And Editors (1999)

1999 doesn’t seem like so long ago but in Internet time it might as well be the beginning of the last Ice Age. In 1999, J.D. Lasica wrote what might be my favorite article in this story (which is why I saved it for last). He was speaking about citizen journalism from the other side of the last Internet bubble. He wasn’t informed by the rise of online advertising and its fall over the last year, he knew nothing about how deep of a wound sites like Craigslist and Monster would leave in the classified industry, he didn’t know about blogs and vlogs and Twitter.

What he speaks about in this article is citizen journalism in its purist form, the idea that regular people can have a profound effect on how the news is gathered. He speaks about it and points out that the fact the people putting their hats in the ring is a good thing,

Where will online journalism be in five or 10 years? In the hands of more and more regular folks, who may not even think of themselves as journalists.

The Internet has long held out the ideal of Everyman as publisher — ordinary citizens who take back journalism from the professional class. As the Web matures, we’re starting to see a flourishing of community journalism, a phenomenon that has both distant roots and a promising future.

‘The news consumer is turning into a news provider,’ says Walter Bender, associate director of the MIT Media Lab. ‘It’s not that these news consumers will compete with the New York Times, but the consumer becomes part of the process of telling stories in a way that enriches the public discourse.’

He goes on to describe how newspapers can enlist people with shared interests and connect them in meaningful ways to produce content. He describes, from the perspective of someone who see’s the web through the lens of Geocities and Tripod, the power that the rise in Social Networking could have over the collection and dissemination of information.

While he had no idea about the explosion of tools that the next ten years would see, he presents the future of journalism in an optimistic light, showing that the reality of all of this is that people need news, they need to be informed and that we should strive to find ways to inform them in ways to take advantage of all the tools we have at our disposal.

I suggest you read the article and then think about the rest of this story, although the title is “The Death of the American Newspaper,” I think you can see we have really been talking about the rebirth of journalism and how newspapers can respond in ways that improve the lives of the news consumer because, as J.D. puts it at the end of his piece,

This is where we’re heading: news not as a commodity dispensed by a professional class, but as a service in which the consumer is engaged as an active participant. In the future, journalism will become a catalyst for creating communities of interest and for building links and relationships between news providers and consumers. That’s a win for everyone.

I honestly think it is.

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