I was watching the Newspaper Review on the BBC News Channel one night last week when I heard something which sounded so pompous that I couldn’t believe it had been uttered. According to the lady who had been called in to review the papers there is no such thing as “Citizen’s Journalism”. Apparently, the only way to become a Journalist is to go to university and get a Degree in the subject.
That’s funny because every time there is some kind of disaster nowadays the “Mainstream”Media seem eager to get eyewitness accounts from people who have either seen it for themselves or been directly affected by it. I very much doubt these eyewitnesses have been anywhere near a Journalism School in their lives.
I consider myself to be both a “Citizen Journalist” and a Blogger – and I believe there is space for both artforms as well as what most people recognise as “Professional” Journalists. For a start – the only agenda I have got is to educate people on the issues which affect and interest me. I do not have to “spin” my blog posts to suit someone else’s opinion – as I would have to do if I was working for a “Mainstream” Media organisation. (Just of interest- has anybody else found it nearly impossible to find a “Mainstream” Media organisation who actually broadcasts news in an unbiased way???)
I read somewhere that someone was lamenting the days of “Spitting Image” and other satirical programmes from way back when. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that those programmes were the “Good Old Days” where nothing was wrong with the world (far from it) – but they do have a point. Satire was a brilliant way of holding the “Mainstream” Media (and the Government of the day) to account.
There could be a view which says that Social Media has taken the place of Satirical programmes on TV. After all, I have seen so much commentary on Social Media which casts doubt (rightly or wrongly) on just about every news story I can think of. Or at least provides enough background to them to help me I decide fact from “spin”.
If you really think about it – everybody is a journalist in their own way – whether or not they are officially accredited as such. If you write a diary in your private life or any kind of report at work you are in effect keeping a journal of what has happened as well as what you intend to happen. After all, journalism is merely recording and reporting on events.
I was once given a very useful piece of advice which I still live by today – a true Journalist (or Writer) will write about anything and everything, whether or not it will earn them money. Actually – the way the person really said it was along the lines of “you are better than some of the First Year Journalism students I teach – you write even though you don’t get paid for it. Some of the Students just want to write big stories straightaway”.
There is a very good reason for that – if I didn’t write I would be dead. This may sound like an exaggeration but I exist to both read and write. There is a character in “Short Circuit” who is a robot or Alien which I absolutely adore. He sees a pile of books at one point and says “Data – Data” just before he speed reads through the massive pile in front of him.
The point I am trying to make is – Bloggers, “Citizen Journalists”, “Professional Journalists”, writers of non-fiction masterpeices about subjects like the beginning of the Universe, etc, all have something to teach us. We cannot separate them all and disregard some just because they lack the “correct” qualifications and experience. We need all of them in order to get a properly rounded view of life as we know it.