Recently, a CNN iReport citizen journalist published a news item breaking the news of Steve Jobs heart attack. (CNN’s official statement to the fake news item) The aftermath of this false news item was the sharp drop in Apple’s share. This resulted in an SEC investigation being launched to pursue if the item was to force a sell off on Apple shares, which would result in a very bad consequences for the “citizen journalist”. The fun part is that this “citizen journalist” may never be found and punished to the fullest extent of the law.
So, I posted an entry last week about citizen journalism, referring to CBS eye mobile blunder. I am not a great fan of citizen journalism. I agree that it gives new sources an ability to increase their scope of content for their viewers. But the biggest negative that I see with citizen journalism is the freedom of it all. Journalism, news reporting, in general involves a great deal of fact checking. Being a “citizen journalist” does not give you the freedom to post whatever you want. You have to be responsible to the news and to the readers or viewers you are informing.
Look, real journalists become journalists because they earn the right to be. Your average joe or jane on the street, who call themselves “citizen journalist” will never be a true journalist. All they ever will be is an innocent bystander who was at the right place at the right time. Nothing more, nothing less. They have no credibility other than being their own viewpoint.
The solution that seems most plausible is the control and management of the content. The whole point of these citizen journalism websites is that users can post whatever they want. Users must govern themselves and make sure that each user is properly using the website. But if CNN or CBS were to control the users for the sake of their own credibility and revenue, will users still use the website afterwards?
Youtube, Flickr, Myspace, etc., basically any user generated website have rules and regulation on how their users have to act. But the users didn’t leave. They either didn’t care anymore or took a shortcut to avoid the system. They also did not leave because these websites were almost vital to people’s lives. Is CNN iReport or CBS Eye Mobile vital to the lives of their users?