Dr. Michael Maier (Stichwort Readers Edition und Blogform Verlags GmbH) ist derzeit Fellow im Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy an der John F. Kennedy School of Government der Harvard University. Er beschäftigt sich dort mit dem Thema Citizen Journalism. Er hat mich um die Beantwortung von zwölf Fragen zum Thema gebeten. Die Fragen und meine Antworten (in Englisch) gibt es über den folgenden Link.
1. To what extent can ordinary people adapt basic rules of journalism?
This question implies that (1) there are basic rules of journalism that need to be adapted and (2) that those rules are something â€žordinary people“ should care about. What so-called ordinary people do is that they write online about things THEY care about, in THEIR own voice and in the formats THEY think are best fit for THEM. This constitutes their own rules, their own authenticity and subjectivity. For the rest of journalistic rules (be accurate, check and name sources etc.): Lend them a hand, teach them how to respect the personal rights of others and how to correctly give credits to those they cite.
2. Where are the limitations for “citizens” to do journalism?
Again, this question implies a normative view of journalism and journalistic quality standards. The limitation is not within the citizens themselves, they are grounded in traditional media’s set way and inability to innovate. What citizens do need is moderation and a helping hand when working for a citizen journalism project.
3. What kind of organization is necessary to run journalism?
Journalism is important for any democracy. Ideally it should be public domain and thus run by non-profit organizations as some kind of community service. This is especially true for hyperlocal communities and geographical regions where mass media monopolies control public opinion. Citizen Media best work as grassroots movements that are framed by the help of a professionally organized institution.
4. How can citizen journalism be structured, so it becomes a “good conversation” and not just noise?
Leave traditional ways of structuring media content behind since it is a structure that has evolved within a unidirectional communications system. Web-based Citizen Journalism necessarily needs to be structured along the lines of a multidirectional and interactive communications paradigm. Furthermore, CJ should be structured along the lines people think. Geographical region, their own history and world views gives their thinking and writing structure. Thus: Let them structure their content along the lines of local proximity and personal interests. If framed by the help of professionally trained journalists an overarching social structure of CJ will emerge. This emergence and self organized structure will help to keep a sustainable conversation going. To allow for this the sociao-technological platform must provide the conversational tools to help people easily join the conversation.
5. Why is it so difficult for news media to embrace citizen journalism?
Because they still don’t get the web. They don’t get that the changes taking place are profound and irreversible. News media is not used to losing control, but that is what is happening right now. It is their arrogance and fear that bloggers an the like will threaten their so called quality standards. The opposite is true. Citizen journalism is the long tail of a democratic media system. It is part of the solution for old media to survive in a fast paced media landscape that is dominated by Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and telcos. Citizen Journalim is an ally, not an enemy.
6. Do you see the principle of the “wisdom of crowds” as something that may change the industry?
May change? It already has and further will be changing not only the media industry but also other party of society. The Web itself is proof for this change, it is at the same time result and work in progress of crowd intelligence. Think Cluetrain Manifesto!
7. What are the legal limitations of journalisms delivered by ordinary people?
This is somewhat a grey area. I have no good answer to that question. The current practice that CJ’s basically have to give away all their copyright to the owner of a CJ platform but are still held fully responsible for legal questions that may arise afterwards is an unfair und un just practice.
8. Can it be that the business model of traditional media is at stake?
It is not at stake. But especially on the web a growing number of people, web startups and Telcos do a better job at implementing an ad-based business model that fits the networked nature of the Web. I believe that in the future content has to be free (actually it already is today in most cases) . Traditional Media have to extent their brand and their product lines if they want to survive.
9. Do you see any business models for citizen journalism?
Public Domain, Sponsoring and of course splitting ad revenues. If their is advertising there must be a transparent and fair system to let the citizen journalists have a piece of the cake.
10. Tell me your best/worst example of citizen journalism.
Assignment zero, OhMyNews and globalvoicesonline.org are prime examples of good solutions. Wikinews, Opinio (Germany), Germanblogs are rather bad examples.
11. How will citizen journalism change political communication?
It will force politicians to be clearer, more transparent and more authentic because people can talk back and create their own publics. Think: Watchdogs! Citizen Journalism will make political communication more democratic. Nowadays political communication only creates the illusion that we live in a democratic world. Citizen Journalism can potentially bring democracy back to its roots. Problem is: Lack of contributors. Right now, there are not enough citizens willing to participate (maybe except the United States)
12. Where do you see the old media? Will they embrace the new trend or rather vanish?
First, old media have to deal with Google and other Internet players. If they don’t they will vanish. Also they have to adapt to the radically changing media usage behaviors of their targeted audiences. In that context Citizen Journalism can help old media to bridge the gap and lead the way from offline to crossmedia, to truly interactive communication online that (ideally) is grounded in a common local history and local identity. CJ only works on a locally bound level.