Every week, I document the journey and thought process that goes into building BoomerangBeat. That might sound boring to you, but it’s in my nature to document everything I do. You never know who may find it useful one day.
Think that’s ridiculous? I’m okay with that, you should see how many pictures I take.
Click on the link to see the complete list of BoomerangBeat articles or to learn more about my project.
Last week I submitted BoomerangBeat to the Google News Feed. Although my fingers are crossed, I’m not entirely optimistic that something will come of it.
However, through the application process I did learn something – BoomerangBeat is considered citizen journalism.
I realize how that sounds but honestly I hadn’t thought about it in that context before which made me really not want to check that box for fear Google wouldn’t consider BB a legitimate source. By checking it, I felt I was going to lose the game before I even got the chance to play.
But I did check it … after some research.
The negative stereotype
Let me point out that I never thought I was a professional reporter. I’m neither trained nor educated in journalism. But on the other hand, I hadn’t considered myself a citizen journalist either.
I was wrong to not.
Until now, I had a half-baked idea of what citizen journalism was and what it meant to society. While there’s no way to be entirely sure how this misconception manifested in my head, I had the idea that citizen journalism was the opposite of professional journalism and therefore, “unprofessional” by nature.
That notion, mixed with the rise of inexpensive mediums becoming available to the masses (read: social media and blogging platforms) lead to an out pour of random acts of journalism by the average Jane, allowing anyone (I include myself in this) to say whatever they wanted to say.
Real people, lacking the training and skill of reporting, writing and editing, now have easy access to a public megaphone. This is bad because it creates even more noise on top of an already saturated marketplace.
But it can also be good. If you think about it, citizen journalism in the age of technology is a fairly immature trade and with any new “craft”, there are bound to be some growing pains.
Citizen journalism is a positive thing
The Oxymoronic Citizen Journalism by Frederic Filloux helped change my perspective by showing me the positive effect it can have on society and how it can support professional reporters, not necessarily compete with them.
In the article, he talks about different ways that citizens weigh in – through online comment systems, submitting news tips, via their own blogs or social media.
The difference, he notes, really boils down to an issue of quality and those that fall into the “best range” are “solid, precise, and sometimes edited; they take the time to write their pieces and it shows.”
In contrast, and as noted above, there are those that can be “utterly superficial, lacking precise facts, or are agenda-driven and written with a shovel.”
So, when done well there is a place for the citizen journalists who function as outliers and seek to enrich the public with a different perspective.
A powerful combination
To further the idea that citizen journalism is a good thing, Filloux expands on the idea that the acceptance of public input and contribution can raise the level of participation and relevancy – when participation is relevant it has a solid place in the news cycle.
My hope is that news media big wigs will see BoomerangBeat as a benefit of, and protection for, the viewer or reader; that they interpret it as a contribution to the collective intelligence rather than their competitor for public trust.
We need our journalists, but we need real voices too and that is what BoomerangBeat is for – to provide an avenue that heightens the story journalists are already telling.
Not so obvious when you’re in the thick of it
There is a place for citizen journalism in this ecosystem and there is room for them to make a difference.
As I write this, it does seem obvious but I feel like I have something to prove and when I think that way, doubt starts to affect the work I produce (or lack thereof).
So perhaps this is more of a reminder for me than it is evidence for you.