Thursday, March 11, 2010

Finding a balance between the citizen and the journalist

Initially I planned to write about a story featured in Washington Times' “Citizen Journalism” section, which is a compilation of articles written by residents. But I forgot about the beauty of the web: It’s constantly changing. I went searching for the story and found nothing.

The article was about a D.C. program that helps newly released felons transition back into the community by assisting with job, housing, transportation and even the clemency process. The subject is interesting and raises questions, like what else is being done to curb repeat offending?

The author covered a newly released felon and how the program helped him with job applications and housing. The author decided to focus on clemency and the felon, instead of the program and other related issues. I was mostly surprised that he would focus on clemency applications since the amount of felons that receive expunged cases is insignificant.

I was going to write about the article-mostly critique it-but it was composed by a citizen, not a journalist, and I have to take this into consideration. Surprisingly, my critiques lessened the more I glanced over the "citizen journalism" (CJ). I liked that many articles focused on issues that newspapers would gloss over or simply not feature. CJ also allows readers to be involved with news, something that could help diminishing newsprint.

However, placing myself in an editor’s position, I wonder to what extent should editors change the article to make it sound "journalistic", cohesive and clear? Or do editors let the story stand to make it sound “citizen” written? The editor has many other tasks, so how much time should be dedicated to coaching and ensuring questions are answered and certain points are covered? If the editor doesn’t do this, should someone be assigned? Objectivity will most likely be challenged; should this be expected?

If I were an editor and wanted citizen journalists, I would try and keep the story’s integrity as much as possible. I would also find a way to minimally coach the citizen writer to ensure the story is complete yet “citizen written.” I would expect independence to be sacrificed because many citizens write about impassioned interests, which are usually the same interests that daily news flow trumps.

No comments:

Post a Comment