Friday, January 18, 2008

hacking citizen journalism

Mother Jones has an interesting take on the downside of newspapers embracing citizen journalism:
If the elitist fortress-newsroom mentality held John Q. Public at arm's length, it also kept PR flacks and unqualified hacks out of the newsroom. By forcing their beleaguered staffs to depend on outsiders for content, then running the content without much editorial oversight, newspapers may be taken in by crackpots and sly marketers who make Jayson Blair look like a grade-school plagiarist.

Having worked with user-submitted content in print for over a decade--well before it was becoming ubiquitous on the Internet--I can say without hesitation that it's true. At Punk Planet, we received plenty of stories submitted in full or in part by band's PR representatives and record labels (sometimes even interviews performed by the band themselves!), by party-line toting activists, and plenty of folks with no facts whatsoever. It meant using more editorial discretion, not less, for exactly the reasons at the Mother Jones story outlines.