When I wrote We the Media in 2004, I was confident that citizen journalism would become an essential part of the ecosystem. Nothing I’ve seen leads me to believe otherwise. But the genre has a long way to go.
What is citizen journalism, specifically? There’s no single definition, just as we can’t restrict traditional journalism to what people do in newspapers. There are a thousand examples (and we point to them all the time on the Mediactive blog), but the important thing to recognize is the sheer variety, in format, style and intent. Remember, we are talking about what is journalism, not who’s a journalist.
As I’ll discuss in this chapter, citizen journalism and citizen media in general have drawn increasing attention from investors and media partners. Foundations, too, have stepped up to fill at least some of the perceived and real gaps in news, and have put millions of dollars into initiatives of, by and for the people.
It has also been heartening to watch traditional media organizations, big and small, begin to understand why they need to play a role in this arena. The vast majority of newspapers now have staff blogs, which is a good start, and as noted in Chapter 3 a few forward-looking organizations are inviting their audiences to participate in the actual journalism. But Old Media continues to be behind the curve, and I don’t see that changing much.
What is unquestionably changing, at an accelerating pace, is the take-up by people everywhere of the professionals’ tools of trade. In one area, photojournalism, a transition of unprecedented magnitude is well under way.