www.nettime.org
Nettime mailing list archives

<nettime> Emergence of Citizen Journalism in the US and Bill Moyers
Ronda Hauben on Wed, 9 May 2007 17:07:22 +0200 (CEST)


[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> Emergence of Citizen Journalism in the US and Bill Moyers


An article from OhmyNews International that I thought folks on Nettime
would find of interest.


Bill Moyers and the Emergence of U.S. Citizen Journalism Power of
government creates need for investigative news by Ronda Hauben

Bill Moyers is a highly respected professional journalist, an American
journalist who stands out as one who is willing to speak truth
to power, even at the risk of losing his job. Moyers has been a
journalist since he was 15 years old, and yet he considers himself a
citizen journalist. After an absence of more than two years, Moyers
returned to PBS (public broadcasting system) on Friday, April 27 with
the return of his show the "Bill Moyers Journal." (1)

This initial Friday night program provides a helpful framework to use
in looking at the nature of citizen journalism and considering what
are the essential factors needed for citizen journalism to develop in
the U.S.

Often citizen journalism has been referred to as a journalism of
"amateurs" as opposed to "professionals," as two prominent Columbia
Journalism School professionals Samuel Freedman (2) and Nicholas
Leeman (3) have argued, or as a journalism of those "who lack training
as journalists" in contrast to those who are "trained journalists," as
a recent article in LinuxInsider proposes. (4)

The origin and development of citizen journalism presents the basis
for a very different model, however. The basis is for a collaboration
of journalists as a Fourth Estate, and of citizens who are concerned
with overseeing what government does so as to monitor the use and
abuse of power.

The concept of citizen journalism was first popularized by the Korean
online newspaper OhmyNews. When OhmyNews was started in February 2000,
it was with the goal of transforming the conservative domination of
the media landscape in South Korea. Oh Yeon-ho, the founder and CEO of
OhmyNews, had worked as a journalist for the progressive publication
"Mal" for the previous decade. His experience taught him that even
when he wrote a significant story, it received little attention. When
one of the conservative newspapers in South Korea covered a comparable
story, however, other conservative news media provided coverage,
so the story received serious attention. In starting OhmyNews, Oh
was determined to bring about a change in the media environment in
South Korea so that "'the quality of news determined whether it won
or lost,' not the power and prestige of the media organization that
printed the article." (5)

The creation of OhmyNews originally took the form of a media
organization with a small staff of reporters and editors who focused
on covering a carefully chosen but limited set of stories. With the
concept "every citizen is a reporter," however, readers were invited
to submit articles, many of which were included as part of the
OhmyNews publication. The writers whose articles appeared in OhmyNews
were paid a small fee. Since then OhmyNews has grown substantially.
The question is raised whether there is any similar development
growing up in the U.S. In order to answer the question, it is
important to determine the necessary characteristics for a media to be
called "citizen journalism."

On the first regular episode of the Bill Moyers Journal, Moyers
invited Jon Stewart and Josh Marshall as his guests. Stewart insists
he isn't a journalist though Moyers differs. Stewart's program "The
Daily Show" which appears on cable television, is considered by many
of his devoted fans to be closer to what is "news" than the majority
of programs which call themselves news or news media. Stewart,
however, describes his show as close to "an editorial cartoon."

On his initial Friday evening show, Moyers played some clips from
a recent Daily Show. One clip was an extract from the testimony
presented to the U.S. congress by U.S. Attorney General Alberto
Gonzales. The clip showed Gonzales claiming "I can't recall" in
many different instances in response to nearly all the questions
he was asked by the congress. Stewart comments that at first he
didn't understand what the significance was of Gonzales' response.
Eventually, however, he began to think he had figured out what
it represented. Describing the motives of those in the Bush
administration, he says: (6)

"They would rather us believe them to be wildly incompetent and
inarticulate than to let us know anything about how they operate. And
so, they do constitutionally-mandated things most of the time, but
they don't -- they fulfill the letter of their obligation to checks
and balances, but not the intent."

Stewart is commenting on why Gonzales' testimony on April 19, 2007 to
the U.S. congress did not explain anything about how the decision had
been made in the situation that was the subject of the hearing. Eight
U.S. attorneys appointed by the justice department which Gonzales
heads were fired. These attorneys were from different regions of the
U.S. and so at first the pattern of justice department activity was
not obvious to congress which is charged with overseeing the activity
of the justice department.

Stewart comments that Gonzales was willing "to look like a pinhead"
rather than provide the needed information for congress to carry out
its oversight functions over the justice department. Elaborating on
the importance of such oversight functions, Stewart explains (7):

"The election moment is merely the American public saying, 'We'd
rather you be president than that guy.' That's it. The next four
years, though, you still have to abide by the oversight process that
is there to prevent this kind of bizarre sort of cult-like atmosphere
that falls along. I mean, I accept that kind of veil of secrecy around
Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, but I don't accept that around our
government."

Another guest on Bill Moyer's show was Joshua Micah Marshall, the
head of TPM Media, an online media company which is located in
the flower district of New York City. TPM Media employs several
full time reporter bloggers who work with Marshall. It publishes
TalkingPointsMemo.com and TPMmuckraker.com The description of
TPMmuckraker explains that "TPMmuckraker.com is a news blog dedicated
to chronicling, explaining and reporting on public corruption,
political scandal and abuses of the public trust of all sorts." A more
elaborate description on the Web site says (8):

"As the site's name implies, it is inspired by the early 20th century
tradition of journalistic muckraking and built on the technologies of
the early 21st. Our aim is to produce journalism that is pugnacious,
lively, independent, meticulously factual and fun."

The mechanism of funding is listed as "paid advertising and
contributions from readers."

TCMmuckraker.com first broke the story of the firing of the eight U.S.
attorneys by the justice department. The U.S. congress is currently
investigating the circumstances of these activities. Several of the
attorneys who were fired were conducting criminal investigations of
government officials in which the Republican Party took an interest.

Marshall's publication successfully utilized the Internet to piece
together the activities within the department of justice, which were
not obvious to outsiders.

In December 2006, Marshall posted a link about the firing of a U.S.
attorney in Arkansas from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. An article in
The Los Angeles Times explains what happened: (9)

"Marshall later followed up, adding that several U.S. attorneys were
apparently being replaced and asked his 100,000 or so daily readers
to write in if they knew anything about U.S. attorneys being fired in
their areas. For the two months that followed, Talking Points Memo
and one of its sister sites, TPM Muckraker, accumulated evidence from
around the country on who the axed prosecutors were, and why politics
might be behind the firings. The cause was taken up among Democrats,
Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales is now in the media crosshairs."

The participation of readers in making it possible for the details
of the maneuvers of the justice department to be uncovered is a
demonstration of the power of citizen participation in a developing
news story, a power that the Internet makes possible.

Commenting on the potential demonstrated by such exposures, one reader
writes:(10)

"I think that the Internet has/is doing to journalism what it has done
to nearly everything else it touches. It 'communitizes' it. That means
the break down between the roles of the journalist and the reader as
each starts to take on responsibilities of the other."

The ability of the reader to participate in the development of an
important story either as a journalist, by discussing the issues
involved, or by providing tips to the journalist writing the story,
are all important contributions. Similarly, the ability of the
journalist, whether trained as a journalist or not, to take up the
stories that need to be covered in order to monitor the activities of
government, to give such stories the proper attention and to work with
other citizens to develop and to spread the stories so that they get
adequate coverage and attention, are all important contributions to
what I am proposing are essential aspects of citizen journalism.

As a top notch professional journalist who is also a citizen
journalist Moyers offers his critique of the failure of much of
what presents itself as journalism in America. Though there is, he
explains, "some world-class journalism being done in our country
by journalists committed to getting as close as possible to the
verifiable truth," this is not, Moyers proposes, the dominant
character of the U.S. media. "The news business is at war with
journalism," says Moyers. Private interests of unaccountable
executives and investors have come to dominate how Americans get their
news, he maintains. Yet Moyers is optimistic. "What encourages me is
the Internet," he explains. (11)

As the exposure of the firing of the U.S. attorneys scandal continues
to evolve in the U.S., it is likely to take a collaborative effort
of readers and journalists continuing with the investigation and
publication of the details of the story to put pressure on the U.S.
Congress to continue its investigation. This is an activity for
citizens doing the work of journalists, and the work of journalists
acting as citizens. Such a development marks the emergence in the U.S.
of a form of journalism which is independent of the political and
commercial interests, a journalism that is critical of what those in
power are doing.

Given the unbridled power of government officials in the U.S. there
is particularly a need for a journalism which will report the news
and expose the underlying but hidden motives and interests behind the
news. Too often journalists tell the story that those in power want
to be told. Too often these journalists act as if they are the public
relations department for the powerful. Rarely do journalists in the
U.S. tell the news from the point of view of those who are the victims
of the abuse of power by those in public office.

Commenting on the important role for such a new media that is not
corporate dominated and owned, but that is able to fufill the role
of citizen journalism, Linda Milazzo writes, "New Media voices ...
won't permit another president to disregard the will of the people as
the "Old Press" wantonly do, a new press will have free unencumbered
voices, much of which arise from the Internet."(12)

Writing in 1994, Michael Hauben, co-author of the book Netizens: On
the History and Impact of Usenet and the Internet proposed that the
Net brings the power of the reporter to the netizen, to the user of
the net.(13) The collaboration of the citizen and the journalist to
create a socially responsible but powerful form of journalism that
will be capable of monitoring government activities may just now be
emerging in the U.S.



Notes:

(1) Bill Moyers Journal, April 27, 2007 
http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/04272007/transcript4.html

(2) Citizen Journalists and the New 'News.' A response to Samuel 
Freedman's column on CBS TV's 'Public Eye'
http://english.ohmynews.com/articleview/article_view.asp?menu=c10400&no=283357&rel_no=1

(3)"Cit-J and its Place in Journalism." A reply to Nicholas Lemann's New 
Yorker article
http://english.ohmynews.com/articleview/article_view.asp?menu=c10400&no=312691&rel_no=1

(4) Katherine Noyes, "Journalism 2.0: Power to the People, 
Linux Insider" http://www.linuxinsider.com/story/must-read/57193.html

(5)Ronda Hauben, "OhmyNews and 21st Century Journalism," OhmyNews, 
September 9, 2005
http://english.ohmynews.com/articleview/article_view.asp?menu=c10400&no=246787&rel_no=1

(6) Bill Moyers talks with Jon Stewart, April 27, 2007
http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/04272007/transcript1.html

(7) Bill Moyers talks with Jon Stewart, April 27, 2007
http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/04272007/transcript1.html

(8)The urls are: http://www.talkingpointsmemo.org and 
http://tpmmuckraker.com

(9) Terry McDermott, "Blogs can top the presses: Talking Points Memo drove 
the U.S. attorrneys story, proof that Web writers with input from devoted 
readers can reshape journalism," Los Angeles Times, March 17, 2007
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-blogs17mar17,0,2952916.story?coll=la-home-headlines

(10) Posted by: Alex (D - No) | April 30, 2007 01:36 AM The Moyers Blog 
"Open Source Journalism"
http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/blog/2007/04/opensource_journalism_1.html

(11)Interview with Bill Moyers "on journalism and democracy," The 
Christian Century, April 17, 2007 
http://www.christiancentury.org/article.lasso?id=3196

(12)NEW MEDIA: THIS AIN'T YOUR CORPORATE MEDIA ANYMORE!
May 5, 2007 at 19:15:11 Opednews.com
http://www.opednews.com/articles/opedne_linda_mi_070505_new_media_3a_this_ain_.htm

(13) Michael Hauben, "The Net and the Netizens," in Netizens: On the 
History and Impact of Usenet and the Internet 
http://www.columbia.edu/~rh120/ch106.x01


http://english.ohmynews.com/ArticleView/article_view.asp?menu=&no=360069&rel_no=1&back_url




#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: majordomo {AT} bbs.thing.net and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime {AT} bbs.thing.net