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"Journalism Is An Ecosystem"

http://www.pbs.org/idealab/2010/02/faint-praise-for-citizen-journalism-misses-point055.html

""(Darnton) does take umbrage, though, against the term ‘citizen journalist.’ ‘If you’re walking down the street and somebody collapses in front of you and somebody else runs over and administers CPR because they happen to know it, and saves the victim, you wouldn’t go home and say you saw somebody saved by a citizen doctor. You’d say you saw someone saved by a bystander who happened to know CPR. Right? ‘Same thing here. I like to call them bystanders — not journalists. Just good bystanders.’"

I’ve long since stopped taking umbrage when people don’t get it. But to hear stuff like this from someone with Darnton’s track record is dismaying.

He clearly does not understand — or if he does, he deeply regrets — that journalism is no longer the province of the people like himself, who rose on well-defined career tracks through a business that was comprised mostly of big monopoly organizations or a few members of an oligopoly — businesses that achieved their economic power due to conditions that no longer apply.

He does not get that journalism is an ecosystem, and that it is becoming more diverse over time."

by Laura Larmo at 2010-02-25 12:41:38 UTC | Bookmark | | Report spam→

Good point, Laura, but what if the “citizen doctor” — who is NOT a professional but a “good bystander” in Darnton’s view — administers that CPR incorrectly and makes the victim worse off rather than better?

The good intention would still be there, but the outcome would be different.

So it is with “citizen journalism” — yes, we now live in a world where everyone has cameras and computers — the technology to rapidly record, process, and distribute information. We see how powerful this can be, especially in places like Iran where traditional journalists have been arrested and prevented from working, or in China, where the vibrant blogosphere cannot be censored fast enough by the regime.

But in a democratic society like our own, while we benefit from this too, we also lose something very important, and I’m not just talking about the livelihoods of obsolete practitioners like myself, but of responsibility, accountability, and ethics.

A citizen documents something, this is fabulous. But what if that citizen is a partisan of a particular political ideology, has no background or training in professional ethical standards? We have no real way of knowing, certainly not knowing quickly enough in an ecosystem where Twitter gets updated sixty-nine thousand times a minute.

I will be the last person to defend the old order of a common culture dictated by the old elite, even if I, like many photographers, was part of it. I don’t bemoan the loss of three networks or eventually the New York Times, let alone the thousands of smaller newspapers and magazines that once provided essential local coverage and have since died.

But what has replaced it? Nothing yet with the credibility and commitment to covering news, real news, willing to spend money and resources to get this coverage, by professionals with legitimacy forged over years of experience and institutional memory.

We have talked a lot here on LS about Haiti and the coverage of it. Newsweek, to name just one of the proud old flagships, could not afford to send ONE photographer to Haiti for the critical first week. Could not even put someone already there on assignment. Not for lack of people available, certainly not for lack of non-professional citizen journalists that were already there and could have been picked up after making sure they were legit, easy enough to do.

You can say, Newsweek and its ilk are irrelevant. Sure they are. But are you really saying that a totally previously unknown Tweeter has the same trustworthiness? Or at least the same understanding we have of where it’s coming from, as we had of the MSM?

No, unfortunately not. We have to embrace the future where we are all citizen journalists, all plugged in. But rather than simply celebrating the new possibilities, we have to work hard to figure out just how to make it work.

by [former member] | 25 Feb 2010 14:02 | Brooklyn, United States | | Report spam→
Doctors are overrated. They have a one hundred percent failure rate in keeping people alive.

by Richard Lui | 26 Feb 2010 09:02 | Chaiyi, Taiwan | | Report spam→
Here’s another good link from PBS:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/divided/etc/view.html

“A Class Divided:

This is one of the most requested programs in FRONTLINE’s history. It is about an Iowa schoolteacher who, the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered in 1968, gave her third-grade students a first-hand experience in the meaning of discrimination. This is the story of what she taught the children, and the impact that lesson had on their lives.

Watch this 46:00 program here in five consecutive chapters."

Chapter 2:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/video/share.html?s=frol02s42dq66

Personally I think there’s too many white supremacists in the American Journalism establishment, especially for this day and age. It’s no secret.
The utter lack of diversity in American Journalism is part of what’s contributed to its arrogant downfall.

by P. Money | 26 Feb 2010 10:02 (ed. Feb 26 2010) | | Report spam→
“Not until 18 May did a photograph of the Rwandan atrocities make it onto the front page of a French newspaper, the Quotidien de Paris. And even this image, of a dozen decapitated bodies in Rukara, mangled and partly eaten by animals, was just a snapshot taken by a doctor, Eric Girard, not by a photojournalist. That same day, another Paris daily, Libération, was headlined ‘Rwanda: France’s guilty friendships’, but except for another photo by Eric Girard, the accompanying photos showed only some Rwandan refugees in Tanzania.”

The paradox, of course, is that both Luc Delahaye and Patrick Robert were around at the time.

by [former member] | 26 Feb 2010 10:02 | | Report spam→
Alan, I’m not sure if I understood you correctly but:

I personally wasn’t actually saying anything, I just found this article that I found interesting (and wanted to share it).

Anyway that thing about Newsweek not having been in Haiti was interesting. And quite surprising, for me at least.

So if you want an opinion of mine, I think to a certain extent it’s good that with the internet anyone can for example set up a blog and provide another point of view for the sake of comparison, possibly with photos (you just have to make people read the blog…), but, as you said, is it trustworthy or not is another thing and the problem is – as always – more that of how to educate people to be critical (sometimes it seems you shouldn’t believe anything; yesterday I read this about Ryszard Kapuscinski). Do I have a solution for how to make it happen? No.

by Laura Larmo | 06 Mar 2010 10:03 (ed. Mar 6 2010) | Milan, Italy | | Report spam→
Laura, thank you for the link to the Guardian pieces on Kapuscinski, makes for quite interesting reading…and opens up more questions than it answers.

I realize that you were actually quoting and not speaking for yourself in your post above. So more properly my comments should not have been addressed to you but rather to Dan Gilmor who wrote the article that you quoted. My mistake; apologies.

I don’t think we should be surprised any longer at the speed by which traditional media is dying — dead — not just as an economically viable model as even in terms of credibility and public acceptance. It’s “game over.” It was “game over” five years ago.

But not for us, not for us who did come up in the old elitist system that did nurture us and train us: how to cover a story, how to be fair yet an advocate, how to speak truth to power, how to establish the highest standards of honesty and integrity, and how to put in the long hours of unglamorous labor that are needed to really be on top of what you’re doing.

So it is incumbent upon us to push into our changing “media world” with innovation. experimentation, without losing sight of why it is so important.

by [former member] | 06 Mar 2010 17:03 | Brooklyn, United States | | Report spam→
Alan, I’m not sure if anyone on the receiving end of journalism these days is making the same distinction you’re making between the current state of traditional media and journalists. Why would they?

Concerning Kapuscinski, I’m following the debate that’s been going on here in Poland over the new biography and find it surprising that it’s so far focused more on judging the intentions of the biographer (Artur Domoslawski), the degree of Kapuscinski’s involvement in the former communist regime and whether it was ok for Domoslawski to write about Kapuscinski’s personal life, than on the implications of his crossing the line between fact and ficiton.

On top of that there’s also the issue of Stepan Rudik and the disqualification of his story by World Press Photo, which is somewhat similar…

by Karl Badohal | 06 Mar 2010 19:03 | Krakow, Poland | | Report spam→
Alan, no need to apologize! I just had a hunch this detail should be rectified…

by Laura Larmo | 06 Mar 2010 20:03 | Milan, Italy | | Report spam→
Karl, what I mean is that traditional media is dead. But we, the journalists, aren’t. Quite the contrary, we are very much alive, as passionate as we’ve ever been about what we do. Or more, even, because we cannot be complacent.

But the question is: what do we do? not just to make a living, but to be relevant?

Technology and the changing culture it’s engendered does empower us in a million different new ways. My point is that it’s up to us to ride this wave effectively.

When you speak of the “receiving end,” meaning the audience, readers, viewers, I believe that people DO care, as they always have. They used to buy the New York Times because they wanted to know “all the news that’s fit to print,” now everyone gets it for free online, or ignore it completely in favor of the blogosphere, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

I would imagine that most people DO make a distinction between the NYTimes and Twitter, and these days, often pay MORE attention to Twitter because it is so immediate, diverse, and unfiltered except by you the reader.

So how do we adapt? Going forward we will no longer have the audiences of millions that we once did. But those who actually bother to seek out our efforts, whether it’s on a niche blog of 4000 or 40,000 readers, presumably have made a conscious choice to do so, and are that much more engaged.

by [former member] | 06 Mar 2010 20:03 (ed. Mar 6 2010) | Brooklyn, United States | | Report spam→
Here’s more on Kapuscinski:

http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/08/fact-fiction-and-kapuscinski/

by [former member] | 09 Mar 2010 16:03 | Brooklyn, United States | | Report spam→
The citizen who performs CPR is doing medical treatment, but that does not mean that if you need CPR you call a citizen— no, you call a doctor. We need professional photojournalists…..and unfortunately the stream of Twitter images seriously impedes the magazine’s ability to sell a product that features photographs, especially as images appear in real-time on Twitter and not once a week. This is the reality of the industry at this point.

by [former member] | 09 Mar 2010 17:03 | | Report spam→
Thank you for the link Alan! Really interesting. And it cleared things up a lot. Now we just have to wait for the translation (at least I don’t speak Polish) – and for some comments afterwards…

“He often said: if you don’t remember a detail or a fact, it means that it is not really important, it doesn’t matter.” I wonder if he was serious saying that? I definitely wouldn’t agree.

by Laura Larmo | 09 Mar 2010 20:03 (ed. Mar 28 2010) | Milan, Italy | | Report spam→
Laura, I guess what he meant was that it’s more important to focus on the essence of the matter than on the details of its surface. He explained why he usually didn’t record or take notes during interviews here:

http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/3721

I started up a new post earlier today on the controversy over this new biography so as not to hijack this post. Anyway I just got the book and I’ll be happy to share my take once I’m done reading it.

by Karl Badohal | 09 Mar 2010 23:03 (ed. Mar 9 2010) | Krakow, Poland | | Report spam→
sorry, I posted the wrong link, it’s corrected now

by Karl Badohal | 09 Mar 2010 23:03 | Krakow, Poland | | Report spam→
Sure, I can understand his point that people may change in front of a recorder or a note book, but how can you be sure that the things that you remember IS the essence…? Of course when you’re professional you’re supposed to be able to be sure but the brain is the weirdest computer of all and we all have selective memory and hearing…

Oh and don’t worry at least I wouldn’t consider it hijacking talking more about Kapuscinski!

by Laura Larmo | 10 Mar 2010 10:03 | Milan, Italy | | Report spam→
…and now also the citizen journalists will be unemployed…

www.wired.com/gadgets/miscellaneous/news/2002/03/50698

by Laura Larmo | 10 Mar 2010 15:03 (ed. Mar 10 2010) | Milan, Italy | | Report spam→
Here’s an interview with Polk Awards curator John Darnton on citizen journalism in situations like post-elections Iran:

http://www.onthemedia.org/transcripts/2010/02/19/06

Laura, I agree that depending on memory is risky but I don’t think one can ever be sure of what the essence is. I think it’s a matter of judgement more often than we would like to acknowledge, making sense of an issue to the best of one’s ability based on one’s knowledge and experience but also keeping in mind one’s limitations.

Should Kapuscinski’s books get the kosher journalism stamp? Perhaps not… I’m not sure he aimed for that. A few years ago Pamela Constable from the Washington Post quoted him as saying «there is something more valuable and more enduring than facts.»

by Karl Badohal | 12 Mar 2010 16:03 | Krakow, Poland | | Report spam→
I really have to start studying how to write my posts.

by Laura Larmo | 13 Mar 2010 07:03 | Milan, Italy | | Report spam→
Laura – thanks for the thread – will be curious to see how MIT’s drone war journalist fares in Afghanistan, and if it’s actually less mindless than the real thing.

Andy/Alan – interesting comparison of citizen journalism and citizen medical care – but I’m not sure if the CPR analogy works as an argument for the professional. When someone needs CPR, their most immediate need isn’t for a doctor – it’s for a bystander with basic life-saving skills. You could view Twitter as journalism’s equivalent of the battlefield medic – not as polished or long-winded as the institutional channels of information, but arguably a lot more relevant in real-world crisis.

by teru kuwayama | 13 Mar 2010 19:03 (ed. Mar 13 2010) | Palo Alto California, United States | | Report spam→
Teru, it’s Darnton who makes the analogy, not me.

by [former member] | 13 Mar 2010 21:03 | Brooklyn, United States | | Report spam→
heya Alan, sorry – I am losing track of quotations and analogies…but to your question:

“…are you really saying that a totally previously unknown Tweeter has the same trustworthiness? Or at least the same understanding we have of where it’s coming from, as we had of the MSM?”

From the public perspective the credibility/legitimacy gap might look a lot smaller than many professional journalists want to believe.

tangentally – these powerpoint slides were passed on to me, make for an interesting check out:

http://files.me.com/jtm/bmokj3

talk soon, T

by teru kuwayama | 15 Mar 2010 15:03 | Palo Alto California, United States | | Report spam→
i’ll write more on this, but my first thought when I hear you (and other people) say that is:

Never under-estimate the intelligence of the public.

I myself do wonder if my belief in that (a bedrock philosophical tenet of democracy, after all, that people are, or can be, rational actors and decision-makers) isn’t as obsolete as the rest of modernist thought, that, in fact, the cynics are right:

Never over-estimate the intelligence of the public.

Which is what the marketing folks, the harridans of identity politics, the bankers, and privileged have been trying to tell and convince us of…

But doubts notwithstanding, I think it’s fair to say that the public is only as stupid as it is treated. We ARE the public, after all.

So, no, Teru, the “credibility/legitimacy gap” isn’t small or wishful thinking. If it were, the public would already be as motivated towards actual action by “new media” as it once was by “traditional media” — yet what we have instead is splintered partisanship, apathy, and paralysis — and THAT in it of itself is indicative of the larger crisis of which we are speaking, IMHO.

by [former member] | 15 Mar 2010 17:03 | Brooklyn, United States | | Report spam→
Democracy only works if the public is educated and well-informed.
Without an educated and informed majority, Democracy is just another form of terrorism.

Luckily access to education and information has gone from being scarce, expensive, and inefficient,
to being abundant, cheap, and super-efficient with the advent of the interwebs.

Many of the problems facing the viability of Democracy are systemic, for example,
in America we put way more money into the military than in education.

The result is that only about 1 in 7 Americans can even afford to get a college degree,
while our heavily funded military-industrial complex actively works to keep people misinformed on key issues.

But hey, how else can Wal-Mart and McDonald’s keep prices so low
if not for the cheap and abundant work force that’s provided by our failing schools?

by P. Money | 15 Mar 2010 18:03 | | Report spam→
Alan, I don’t think we disagree on too much here, but that crisis cuts both ways – and that public of “splintered partisanship, apathy, and paralysis” also elected Obama – and new/social media didn’t play an insignificant role in that event.

There’ll be some hard, chaotic years ahead as we navigate the realm of unknown unknowns – but that doesn’t make you obsolete, it makes you an expert. And it isn’t game over – it’s game on, and it’s just starting to get interesting.

by teru kuwayama | 17 Mar 2010 08:03 | Palo Alto California, United States | | Report spam→
btw, some interesting thoughts here:

http://www.niemanlab.org/2010/03/the-milton-wolf-seminar-ngos-media-and-diplomacy/

“What happens when news making and journalistic functions are increasingly outsourced or claimed by other actors with no original training in this field and its editorial standards? How central are new media to the alterations and growing distortions of the traditional journalistic sphere and how, if at all, can they be harnessed?”

“NGOs have become increasingly embroiled within a “media logic” that is far removed from the ideals and aims of humanitarianism. This is demonstrated in how aid NGOs seek to “brand” their organizations in the media in response to an increasingly crowded, competitive and media-hungry field; how they pitch and package stories in ways designed to appeal to known media interests, deploying celebrity and publicity events; how they regionalize and personalize media coverage of humanitarian work in the field, marginalizing if not occluding local relief efforts and the role of survivors; and also how they expend valuable time, resources and energy to safeguard their organizational reputations and credibility against the risks of media-led scandals.”

by teru kuwayama | 17 Mar 2010 15:03 | Palo Alto California, United States | | Report spam→
Teru, maybe my analogy was incorrect……heart surgery would have been more to the point I was trying to make. The information flow as relates to Haiti would be a case in point. The Twitter stream coming from Richard Morse of RAM is remarkable and thought provoking, but to go further and to really prove many of his statements requires a professional investigative reporter.

by [former member] | 17 Mar 2010 16:03 | | Report spam→
At risk of going off a bit on a tangent here, IMHO:

Two conditions are essential to create the momentum for social change…

1) when things are so bad that they seem intolerable
2) when things are actually so good that they cannot keep pace with the “revolution of rising expectations,” and people get very, very pissed off

The era of the ’60s was actually #2, the civil rights, anti-war, and social upheavals that happened were in response to the fact that America was richer and more powerful than it had ever been, yet…yet all these issues were so persistent. Therefore people got active, and changed their lives and changed society.

By any standard measurement, right now we are close to #1: the unemployment rate is at 10%, half of what it was during the Great Depression. Similar to what it was in the early 1980s. Judging from this, we should either have widespread social unrest in real terms of protests, riots, breakdown of law and order, AND/OR, fairly radical political change as both FDR and Ronald Reagan were, in the restructuring of society.

The election of Obama in this sense could be comparable to the election of Reagan in 1980. But unlike Reagan, who pushed through a dominant Republican ideology that has really lasted until now (Clinton being more like an Eisenhower, who was the only Republican punctuation between 1932 and 1968)…unlike Reagan, Obama is not just having trouble getting his agenda through (Reagan did too)…but has failed to galvanize even a small minority of the opposing party. Meaning, we are perhaps even closer to 1933 than we realize, in terms of an existential threat to the entire political system.

However, I argue that although new/social media helped elect Obama, it is ALSO HAMPERING real change. Why go and risk getting tear gassed in the streets when you can just vent on Facebook, Twitter, or Lightstalkers?!? And more importantly, without a centrist common culture of three TV networks and LIFE magazine, the only information you’re getting is information you already agree with anyway. Let’s be honest, how much do I watch FOX? How much do Republicans listen to NPR or watch MS-NBC? Not very much, if at all.

You are right that we can be experts, not just obsolete :)
But the whole idea of “experts” — that was what postwar democratic culture tried to overcome — not to put too much power into the hands of elites, that any ordinary person can be a rational actor in his or her self-interest with good information. That we want neither an all-powerful capitalist military-industrial complex NOR a vanguard dictatorship of the proletariat.

So my whole initial point was that it is indeed Game ON, not Game Over, for us, who care deeply about our role in society and are trying to figure out what to do.

by [former member] | 17 Mar 2010 16:03 | Brooklyn, United States | | Report spam→
Well said, Alan. Well said.

by Tamara Gentuso | 17 Mar 2010 17:03 | Nashville, TN, United States | | Report spam→
Teru – I’m interested too to see how the robot will work; this time I quite agree with Kapuscinski (referring to his comment about tape recorders and notebooks): do they really expect to obtain genuine and natural interaction with the interviewer being on a screen? But it’s good to know that also the project leader has some healthy doubts about it.

And you’re right, the powerpoint slides made for an interesting reading.

Alan – when you say “Why go and risk getting tear gassed in the streets when you can just vent on Facebook, Twitter, or Lightstalkers?!?” I would like to ask: But isn’t that just the point? Isn’t there nowadays one more reason to go out there and get yourself tear gassed as afterwards you can brag about it on Facebook, Twitter and Lightstalkers? Beside writing an entire report about it on your blog, perhaps.

by Laura Larmo | 28 Mar 2010 11:03 | Milan, Italy | | Report spam→

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Participants

Laura Larmo, Photographer Laura Larmo
Photographer
Milan , Italy
Richard Lui, Richard Lui
Chaiyi , Taiwan
P. Money, Creative & Futurist P. Money
Creative & Futurist
(See That Which Cannot Be Seen)
[undisclosed location].
Karl Badohal, photographer Karl Badohal
photographer
(karlbadohal@gmail.com)
Krakow , Poland ( KRK )
teru kuwayama, I/O teru kuwayama
I/O
New York , United States
Tamara Gentuso, freelance photojournalist Tamara Gentuso
freelance photojournalist
Nashville, Tennessee , United States ( BNA )


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