Many in the mainstream press have been dismissive, if not down-right mocking, of so-called “citizen journalists.” They see this trend as little more than a group of wannabes pretending to be professionals. Well, read this. It’s the story of one of these citizen journalists who wrote his way into becoming a valued source of news and information on the radio industry in Toronto. Throw in some very optimistic thoughts from a professor of Journalism at the University of British Columbia, and you have a much different picture of the citizen journalism movement than the mainstream press would like anyone to see.
It’s awfully easy for the long-time established press to characterize this threat to its superiority as little more than basement bloggers shooting their mouths off, but, as with their industry-wide blinders toward the value and importance of the internet in its early stages, that is a very risky assumption to make. To me, the emergence of this alternative, hyper-independent press is far more dangerous to the industry than the struggling economy, advertisers wholesale abandonment or anything Google could happen to imagine. This is, in its essence, a direct challenge to the role of the press in our society. And it’s a good one.
Make no mistake, it will be a while before this movement fully takes shape, but we’re no longer talking about random people ranting endlessly on this and that. We’re talking about legions of out-of-work journalists finding niches and areas of information to make their own, delving into issues with the same or greater professionalism of the established media. And there are more coming every day. It used to be that the newspaper was “the” source for information. Now it’s become “a” source, one among an increasing crowd. The superiority and dominance with which the established press has thrived all these years is fading faster than the circulation figures or the advertising revenue combined.
As the professor in the above-linked article said, people will judge this new era of evolution based on the value they find there. The credibility will come from the content, not the brand. In other words, the name on the cover has no meaning any longer, only the work within its pages (paper or digitized). That perhaps, may be a battle the established industry is not only incapable of winning, but unable or unwilling to even recognize.