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Citizen Media or Citizen Interpreters?

Homeheader_2The absorbing Project for Excellence in Journalism's 2008 report on the state of the American news media contains an implied query about the nature of what is called citizen "journalism".

Naysayers dismiss blogging as an alternative to mainstream journalism arguing things like 'They don't report news, they respond to it'; 'It isn't reporting'; 'There are no quality standards'; 'Nobody checks the facts'. All of which are disputable criticisms in their own right especially if the basis of comparison is MSM reporting standards . . . just take a look at a recent post by danah boyd.

Maybe blogs aren't where we go for news. But does it matter? They serve a more attractive and acute need . . . for what the report calls "citizen agenda setting":

In the new arena of citizen media, the most well-known form of Web 2.0 activity, blogging, appeared to be growing as quickly as ever in 2007, but the evidence suggests that most Americans are not turning to blogs for news.

The technology of Web 2.0 has not only set new standards for community interaction among people online, so-called “netizens,” but it is also promising to challenge the definition of journalism as citizens take on the job themselves.

How far has it gone? A new study released in this report finds that most of the citizen Web sites and blogs exercise similar gatekeeper control over their sites as conventional media. Outsiders are not allowed generally to post original content, beyond commenting on the material from the site itself.

More momentum appears to exist in citizen agenda setting than reporting, at user-news sites like Digg, which allow visitors to choose and share what they define as news.

What the authors are getting at is that blogs are a method of what you could call citizen idea aggregation. They are becoming the place where people we trust interpret, comment on or dismiss what is called 'news' (but are more often simply stories with a prejudice, missing context, and implied ideology). People prefer now to build their own narratives about events that are based on facts gathered from many sources and opinions assembled from preferred idea suppliers. Which to my mind makes blogs even more important for corporate or political reputation.

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