My friend Carl Carter, over at overcoffeemedia.com, wrote yesterday that citizen journalism is a myth. Writing correctly that journalism is hard work, he points out the expense and overhead inherent to the filtering that permeates modern professional journalism. This filtration, he and others reason, is the reason consumers prefer to source their news from professional entities.
I think we must distinguish between the raw news and the editorializing that has woven itself into the way many modern news organizations distribute their news. I think it is actually the later that consumers prefer to acquire from the pros. The raw news is provided to us in a barrage of disparate sources throughout the day. Whether we get the headlines from Twitter or scanning aggregators like Google News or social news sources like Digg, we already know what happened.
When we get home at the end of the day, we don’t want to hear the same headlines about which we already know. We want to know why it happened and how it may affect us. The reason we turn to the professional journalists is for the back story.
Unfortunately, this trend of wanting not the facts but to know what the facts mean has relegated the truly professional journalists to the margin. Mainstream consumers are turning instead to organizations who will slant news depending on their preferred bias. CNN is experiencing very poor ratings because they are trying to be professional journalists. They’re getting crushed by Fox News – and have actually fallen behind MSNBC in primetime – because they won’t filter their content to cater to one side or the other. Whether Fox News is a source of journalism (it isn’t) or really just a lifestyle channel promoting a conservative ideal is another discussion.
True citizen journalism may be a myth, but for those of us connected enough to hear about most events as they happen, professional journalism needs to provide us with the why and not so much the what.