Journalism Professor Says Citizen Journalists Should Be Regulated

There's just something about the idea a lack of "elite" gatekeepers that upsets some people. It's why you hear complaints about Wikipedia or blogs or home videos on YouTube. For some reason, there are a group of folks (often the former elitist gatekeepers) who feel that since not all of the content is great, useful or interesting, it all is problematic in some way or another.

The latest to express this type of viewpoint is David Hazinski, a journalism professor and former NBC correspondent, claiming that "unfettered" citizen journalism is "too risky" and that it needs to be regulated (via Romenesko) by "official" media companies, handing out "certificates" to citizen journalists. Unfortunately, his basic premise seems to be incorrect. He states: "Supporters of "citizen journalism" argue it provides independent, accurate, reliable information that the traditional media don't provide." That's not quite true. While some supporters may claim that, in general the benefits of the idea that anyone can be a reporter isn't necessarily about reliable information, but about providing additional viewpoints and information to try to make sure that more of the story is out there for people to find. It's not necessarily about being better -- but just giving an outlet to people who can add more to the story. He's certainly right that it can be abused, but that's missing the point. Sure it can be abused. But so can the traditional press.

What's more important is that such abuses can also be outed and brought to light, just like any other news story. Hazinski is right that professional journalists should be verifying the information provided by "citizen journalists" but that should be true of anyone they accept information from. Almost all of the complaints he lobs at these untrained journalists applies equally to the trained ones -- so it's hard to interpret this piece as anything but complaints from someone who doesn't like the riffraff encroaching on his turf.