Jan 18, 2008

Why let reporters get in the way of good journalism?

Citizen journalism is all the rage with cost-cutting news outfits. After all, getting someone to spout off for free is highly efficient.

But those cynical skeptics at Mother Jones just can't keep their critical mouths shut about the potential downside.

Here's an excerpt:

The wave of journalistic outsourcing has some new-media advocates hailing the death of the "fortress newsroom" mentality and touting the beginning of an era where newspapers not only listen to their readers but invite them into the inner sanctum. "In fortress newsroom, readers are something of a necessary inconvenience. We need their business, but not their ideas," writes Steve Smith, editor of Spokane's Spokesman-Review. Smith and other citizen-journalism boosters are fond of repeating the mantra of Dan Gillmor, author of We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People and the director of the Center for Citizen Media: "Our readers know more than we do."

But 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.

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