Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Citizen journalism? Pro-am journalism? Enough with the name calling

So, this whole 'what can we call citizen journalism' thing is starting to annoy me in the same way the whole 'journalist or blogger' debate makes friends of mine start breathing into brown paper bags.

I spotted a tweet from Heather Brooke, attending a conference somewhere, about something (yes, I checked and no, I couldn't find out what it was but my last post was griping about What Is This Hashtag For so I'll move on):

So 'pro-am' journalism seems to be the rebranded jargon for citizen journalism which is, at root, what used to be 'journalism'. #pdf11.less than a minute ago via Echofon Favorite Retweet Reply

Anyway, I didn't really know what that meant so I had a quick Twitter search. And it turns out there's a whole tranche of people pro-am-ing away... here are a few:

For participation in pro-am journo people need to see & *feel* how they can jump in! Via @jayrosen_nyu #pdf11 #tummelless than a minute ago via Twitter for iPhone Favorite Retweet Reply


I feel a response brewing to @jayrosen_nyu excellent #pdf11 talk on pro-am journalism and it may have a #Mets angleless than a minute ago via Twitter for Android Favorite Retweet Reply

Turned out pro-am - at least in the context of this conference - was a Jay Rosen term and given that he is an influential voice in the world of journalism (someone I read and follow on Twitter, for a start) I guess I'll be hearing the phrase a lot more. But, frankly, I'm sick of determinations.

People do journalism all the time; some of them are paid to do it and they are called Journalists; others aren't and they are called... well, all sorts of things.
If they are reporting on something and consider they are doing journalism, why can't they be called journalists? What distinguishes them from someone else? If you're paid to do it you may call yourself a professional journalist but - to stretch the analogy - a musician is a musician is a musician. Telling the world you're a professional looks a little desperate.
Also, I've worked with a couple of people who had actual qualifications and a salary, whom - in my view - shouldn't have considered themselves as journalists.

If one person is telling about something that happened, and that person is spreading it to a wider world, then one is the eye-witness, the other the reporter. If one person is asking questions about any variety of topics, and sharing the answers with a wider world, they can call themselves a journalist as far as I'm concerned. The Nomenclature Police are hardly likely to care either.

If I want someone to design me a new wing for Chateau Gow I may go to an architect or I might just get a clever friend, someone au fait with design software, to rustle me up something. Is that citizen planning? Have we entered the realm of pro-am architect-design?

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