It’s just to dadgum risky to let untrained people involve themselves in the business of news. So says David Hazinski an associate professor at UGA’s Grady College of Journalism:
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.
No offense to journalists out there but doctors and lawyers earn advanced, specialized degrees and are governed by professional organizations. News organizations have no over site and while I’m sure most try to govern themselves by a code of ethics, they won’t be thrown in jail or sued for screwing up a story. Citizen doctors and citizens lawyers eventually get arrested.
CNN’s last YouTube Republican debate included a question from a retired general who is on Hillary Clinton’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender steering committee. False Internet rumors about Sen. Barack Obama attending a radical Muslim school became so widespread that CNN and other news agencies did stories debunking the rumors. There are literally hundreds of Internet hoaxes and false reports passed off as true stories, tracked by sites such as snopes.com.
Having just anyone produce widely distributed stories without control can have the reverse effect from what advocates intend. It’s just a matter of time before something like a faked Rodney King beating video appears on the air somewhere.
Hazinski fails to point out that CNN and You Tube selected the questions for the debate, not bloggers. The failure to discover the affiliations of those asking questions rests with CNN and You Tube and is not a result of an unregulated internet. His attempt to use that debate as proof of the need for regulation simply doesn’t make sense.
It’s true there are hoaxes on the internet, but the “fake Rodney King beating video” hypothetical has already happened – and it took bloggers to bring the truth to light. I’m sure Hazinski will recall Dan Rather’s use of phony memos to attack President Bush. How would Rather have been dealt with in Hazinski’s world of Journalistic oversight of bloggers?
Citizen reports can be a valuable addition to news and information flow with some protections: