Thursday, April 26, 2007

Has Citizen Journalism Become Elitist?

I was speaking with a colleague about Jay Rosen's NewAssignment.Net and Assignment Zero yesterday, and it struck me that I haven't yet seen much product from the much-hyped new way of doing journalism. In fact, I don't even know anyone who's involved in the project. And when I took a look at the sites this morning, all I could think about was how the big ship of Rosen's brand of citizen journalism was leaving port, and I wasn't on it.

What's more, I don't think I care, either. But I want to. Where's the disconnect?

Is the "new" citizen journalism really all it's cracked up to be?

It's not that I don't like citizen journalism -- part of this blog is dedicated to covering the phenomenon, and I'm all for it. But there's something limiting about this new form of grassroots participation. Does this new incarnation really have the level of involvement of, say, Wikipedia?

Could Wikipedia have succeded with deadlines and assignments?

Maybe a better idea would just simply be "Pressapedia" -- an ever-updating wiki that's moderated by the editors Rosen's hired. Then it would function solely as its own publication, and always be up to date (after all, no one wants a comment trashing their piece). It would, of course, police itself. (Which makes me wonder -- what if one of Assignment Zero's writers submits falsely reported information? Then what?)

For now, Assignment Zero is due out June 5, and it has struck a deal with to run a piece by Jeff Howe. This too, makes me wonder, though I might have missed it when I read the original explanation for the project -- is Assignment Zero functioning as a newswire? A publication? Or just a freelance reporter with hundreds of brains?

Nevertheless, the more I look at the sites, the less "welcome" I feel in contributing to them. Hell, I'm graduating from the same Department of Journalism that Rosen works for -- why haven't I and my fellow classmates been recruited for such an endeavor? With all of these press releases and articles about it by other journalists (how meta), it's starting to feel more like a grassroots media corporation with a good marketing team than a grassroots reporting team.

I'm not trying to pick apart Rosen's new endeavor(s). I think they're a great new way of thinking -- I just don't feel compelled by them. And I like journalism.

How much of a splash could Assignment Zero have if it takes this long to put out a single story? In the world of round-the-clock news, could a slow turnover rate be the Achilles Heel of citizen journalism?

As my colleague said, it might work in theory -- but not in practice. We'll have to see in the coming months.


DigiDave said...

Good stuff. First, you and anybody else are more than welcome to participate. I can explain how more in an email if you want (feel free to contact me -- my info can be found at
Second: One way to think of this: We aren't just producing one article -- we are producing a special issue of a magazine. Like the Time magazine where you and I were both proclaimed the "person of the year," there was a feature article (in our case it will be written by Howe) but there were sidebars, side articles, info-graphics and more. We are taking three months because we are trying to create a finished product along those lines -- this way we can try to tackle all kinds of topics (you can search by your interest at the here) and hopefully something appeals to just about everyone.

Also -- I've actually written to you before, maybe around last October or November -- you have a great blog. Keep it up.

Larisa said...


The Editorialiste said...

@digidave: Yes, I do remember you posting before. Thanks for continuing to read the feed, and thanks for clearing up some of my questions on your project. I'm looking forward to digesting the first product when it arrives -- I'd like to see how it functions within the current world (and thus, offerings) of journalism. If I may ask -- will the process speed up over time? Is there a goal beyond the initial project as to how citizen journalism can operate side-by-side with MSM?

Thank you again for reading,
The Editorialiste.