A roundup of the different flavors of this new journalism form
This article appeared Aug. 6, 2003, in the Online Journalism Review. Here’s the version on the OJR site.
In this series:
By J.D. Lasica
Participatory journalism is a slippery creature. Everyone knows what audience participation means, but when does that translate into journalism?
Alas, there’s no simple answer. In a segment on PBS’s NewsHour website last April that asked, “Is blogging journalism?” Joan Connell, an executive producer at MSNBC.com, suggested that independent bloggers aren’t journalists because no editor comes between the author and reader. “I would submit that (the newsroom) editing function really is the factor that makes it journalism,” she said. (Bloggers disagreed.)
And last month syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman bemoaned the fact that Web sites were posting “news” withheld by the mainstream media about the identity of Kobe Bryant’s accuser.
Part of the problem in the is-it-or-isn’t-it-journalism debate arises from the relatively new idea of ordinary people publishing online — some of them reporting news.
“For the first time, people at the edges of the network have the ability to create their own news entities,” says Dan Gillmor, a San Jose Mercury News journalist who is writing a book about participatory journalism.
So what is participatory journalism?
When small independent online publications and collaborative news sites with an amateur staff perform original reporting on community affairs, few would contest that they’re engaged in journalism.
When citizens contribute photos, video and news updates to mainstream news outlets, many would argue they’re doing journalism.