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Saturday, August 12, 2006

Double duty here: I'm catching up with an important debate for online journalism students to think about... and I'm demonstrating the kind of overloaded linking that would scare people away from an "online journalism" site... where their motivation to read isn't determined by the answer to the question, "Will this be on a quiz?"

The "bloggers versus journalists" debates seemed to have eased off around the time some bloggers began identifying themselves as "citizen journalists" (and some not). Now here's a fresh round of sparring, launched by Nick Lemann, the dean of Columbia Journalism School... in a New Yorker article calling citizen journalism "The Amateur Hour: Journalism Without Journalists."

Here's a response from blogging media consultant Jeff Jarvis and another from NYU Professor Jay Rosen's PressThink blog, who has a citizen journalism project of his own in the works.

Here's a Columbia doctoral student disagreeing with the dean while trying to categorize a variety of citizen journalism sites.

Next, The New York Times reported that Columbia Journalism Review is cutting back its online daily to feed the older print mag and Editor & Publisher's reporter felt that contradicted the last line of Lemann's article: "As journalism moves to the Internet, the main project ought to be moving reporters there, not stripping them away."

Dan Kennedy, Boston media critic, called the dean's New Yorker piece "thoughtful and measured," but the CJR decision left him proclaiming "Smart guy, dumb move."

So much to read; so little time. Rosen's item alone has 24 links to background information, and had accumulated more than a dozen comments from readers before I got to it. How deep will students who haven't thought about these issues have to read to feel they know what's going on? Hmm. I haven't even mentioned that UT prof Glenn Reynolds' book provides the first quote in Lemann's article. And if anyone in all those commentaries brought up the idea of a "pro/am partnership" in the future of journalism, I haven't seen it yet... but I don't have time to read all of the debate either.

My favorite passage in Lemann's article is close to the end, and begins with an observation that journalism must provide citizens with "an independent source of information about the state and other holders of power." Here's Lemann's  succinct summary of what that takes:

"It sounds obvious, but reporting requires reporters.
They don't have to be priests or gatekeepers or even paid
professionals; they just have to go out and do the work.
The Internet is not unfriendly to reporting; potentially, it
is the best reporting medium ever invented."

I think that's a good place for the semester to start.

6:18:30 PM    

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