Sunday, November 08, 2009

Jerks, tweets and news

A TechCrunch article by Paul Carr (NSFW: After Fort Hood, another example of how ‘citizen journalists’ can’t handle the truth) stirred up a good bit of Twitter discussion for a Sunday morning.

To me, the important question is not whether non-professional news reporting will be available or whether "jerks with cellphone" will run amok, but rather how we learn to handle that and incorporate it into the public newsstream.

The discussion seems worth more than evanescent 140-character exchanges. To keep the conversation going, I collected a little of the colloquy from an hour or so this morning, mainly between NYU's ay Rosen and me.

Jay Rosen: Paul Carr is going contrarian on citizen journalism's ass. Jerks with cell phones and Twitter accounts appall him

Jay Rosen: I don't find the "you're ga ga, I'm de-illusioned" style of argument very persuasive … I think it's cheap.

@jayrosen_nyu I think you're writing off Carr's concerns a little too cavalierly. Those jerks were not just present, but widely cited.

@howardweaver I don't get what you want. Jerks with cell phones will Tweet wrong or voyeuristic stuff because they can. True. Therefore...?

@jayrosen_nyu The more impt issue is how they're received, retransmitted, cited by pro & am journalists alike. Indicative of filter failure.

@jayrosen_nyu What do I want? Recognition of the issues at play in trying to replace one system of reporting and filtering with another.

@jayrosen_nyu As Christ said of the poor, the jerks are always with us. Let them screech. It's how we collectively handle them that matters.

@jayrosen_nyu In that regard, criticism of how jerks feed public news stream does matter. Don't kiss it off as "ga-ga ... de-illusioned."

Jay Rosen: @howardweaver And you find those filtering-the-live-web issues, which are real, framed for our consideration in Paul Carr's post? I don't.

Howard Weaver: Agreed: RT @kmartino: @Chanders worst is that it goes both ways - every single event has choruses promoting - "its great" or "its bad".

Patrick Thompson (@kiconoclast): For citizen journalism to be really valuable, it will require strong curation. Otherwise it's just noise.

@jiconoclast It's *always* been about the signal-to-noise ratio. The way to increase the value is to filter ruthlessly (and professionally).

I'd welcome continued conversation on these issues in the comments here.


  1. And I tried to point out -- for which Jay Rosen called me a 5th grader -- that this highlights the importance of professional journalists to have an even greater sense of their ethical role in journalism. We can play an ethical watchdog role, coaching, teaching and guiding people toward cit-j done right (curating, as they say these days) and doing what Carr did and point out when it goes bad.

    Cit-J is a powerful tool, but it's non an unalloyed good.

    Carr's post is a useful voice in the debate of where CitJ fits in the modern media landscape.

  2. No, Howard. I said a debate about whether citizen journalism is an "unalloyed good" is worthy of a fifth grader.

    It seems to me quite obvious to all who might participate in the debate you wish to have that practices such as citizen journalism and live Tweeting from events are an ambiguous good-- not automatically a gain, not mindlessly to be cheered, not to be instantly condemned or reflexively dismissed, either. That would be a grown up way of starting the discussion.

    By this measure, I think Paul Carr's post is not for grown-ups. You think it's a good way to start to debate. We disagree on that, but not on the more essential points.

  3. Hmmm, an unintentional counterpoint from @Scobleizer that I found interesting:

    I think the point is neither "side", the established journalists or the "citizen bloggers", have a monopoly on news. At least we shouldn't assume they do.

  4. -30- I agree, of course, that there's no monopoly on news. And no monopoly on quality, either, in that many bloggers can do better stuff than many pros.

    My concern is how we sort all this, what the filters are, how can we distinguish on-the-spot, instant eyewitness reporting from sensationalized bullshit ("They just brought in a cart of body transplant parts!!")

    Our old, often flawed journalistic structure had been worked out over decades to compensate for that. We don't have any construct yet to handle today's new world.