Debate 1 Con Side Arguments And Evidence

Our opponents argue this: Traditional news media are failing. Citizen journalism will supplant traditional journalism. Through this debate, we hope to persuade you differently. We will attempt to show you that the traditional news media have failed in some ways but are not failing as a whole. We will NOT try to persuade you that the efforts of citizen journalism are unimportant, but we do argue against the pro’s claim that citizen journalism will supplant traditional journalism. Remember, supplant means to take the place of or substitute one for another. It is the use of this word that we fully disagree with.

Before I begin with our main arguments, let me emphasize what ideas we are in agreement on with our opponents.
First, citizen journalism has allowed citizens to take part in a more active role in the media and opened doors for free speech.
Consequentially, citizen journalism has eased some tension between traditional journalists and the public, or at least given the public an outlet to voice their ideas and opinions.
Third, and perhaps most importantly to note, traditional journalism HAS been hurt by the Internet and therefore citizen journalism can be held accountable for only some of this damage.

Now, here are our arguments.
First, the market and product of traditional journalism is changing not collapsing or being overthrown by citizen journalism. A change is occurring in the product. Traditional journalism is encountering a transitional period in which many organizations are increasing efforts to expand and profit from their online news sites. This situation paints a different picture than simply looking at the fact that circulation has decreased and attributing that decrease to the failure of the industry. The State of the News Media reports that of the 70% of those who use the internet somewhere around 24% gather news online. These users spend an average of only 6 minutes reading online news. There is a distinctive convenience advantage with online news, and this seems to be the challenge. As of the 2007 state of the media report, online ad revenues at growing in double digits- up 16.4 billion dollars! Let’s put this in perspective though, ad revenue for print news has been steadily growing and is at a whopping 47.4 billion. This is a healthy increase from the prior year and clearly a highly profitably industry despite confusing circulation data. A report put out today on calls for a change in the way papers look at their circulation. When adding online readership, and print readership, it is estimated that 2/3 of people are engaged in traditional journalists work ( The problem is, how can traditional news change their products and incorporate new technology while still making profits. This is NOT a problem of combating the efforts of citizen journalism because they are somehow taking over!

Dwindling ad revenues for individual companies and products of mass media are the result of increased competition between different companies and mediums not a lack of demand for professional mass media. Brian Sternberg in a Auguast articlle in Advertising Age, offers the example of Fox Business News, a cable tv network created to compete with CNBC. The network joins a crowded field of newspapers, periodicals, television broadcasters, radio programs, and web sites devoted to business news. Sernberg questions whether there is enough ad revenue for all this business news but not the real demand for mass media created business news. He points out that while ad revenue is down for many publications and programs, other publications have increased ad revenue. According to TNS Media Intelligence, ad spending was up 5.5% at Forbes and about 18.4 at the Wall Street Journal. The fierce competition between companies show the real value and demand for mass media created content and demonstrates while some publications and programs will fail, that overall the mass media is a thriving business.

As you may imagine, traditional and citizen journalism compliment each other rather than compete with each other. In Lehmann's Amateur Hour, he mentions that citizen journalism websites may be an important source for immediate information as the case with Hurricane Katrina but the usefulness and informative nature of these sites declined as traditional media was able to answer focus on larger issues- like why the hurricane was able to destroy so much. Citizen journalism will not supplant traditional journalism because of their reliance on the traditional journalist’s work. On the other hand traditional journalist’s have been quoted admitting that they use blogs and other citizen journalism outposts as a tool to better understand the concerns of a community or group. The grassroots movement of civic journalism should not be confused with citizen journalism. Those fueling the civic journalism movement are in fact traditional journalists- not citizen journalists. Where citizen journalists cover areas missed by some traditional journalists, traditional journalists cover areas, such as national and international news, that citizen journalists cannot cover. Furthermore, traditional organizations are incorporating new technology- like blogging, video clips, discussion panels, and other interactive programming into their own online news sites. In fact, 51% of people are multichannel news gathers meaning, they use both online sources and print television and radio to get their news (Alhers). As we have already emphasized, the news media is changing, but this change is not one of replacement, it is simply one of coexistence.

Journalists work by a certain code of conduct that citizen journalists are not subject to work by. In other words, there are rules and ideals that traditional journalists are expected to respect and this adds legitimacy to their work. In regards to citizen journalism Lehmann states that "the best original [citizen] journalism happens more often by accident, when smart and curious people with access to means of communication are at the scene of a sudden disaster." It is true, traditional journalists cannot be all places at all times covering every event or issue, but they are employed and have devoted their careers to certain standards. Traditional journalists are held to high standards and are expected to put forth the best work in all situations, whereas citizen journalists report on local events where they were in the right place at the right time. We are not claiming that all journalists are perfect and their work needs no skeptical eye, but it is important to realize that citizen journalism has no such ideals or established precedents. Much of citizen journalism is emotionally appealing, biased, or simply conversational. Whereas believability ranking are low for all media, newspapers do have some of the higher ranks compared with online and television medias. Simply put, the media is in need of change, but this change will not come by citizen journalism supplanting traditional journalism.

There have been cases where the lack of the proper journalistic ethics, filtering and reporting have created scandals. For instance in 1997, a prominent internet blogger, Matt Drudge quoted unnamed sources who claimed that democratic operative, author, and former Clinton White House aide Sidney Blumenthal had committed spousal abuse. The story was false and was quickly retracted but ended up in an unsuccesful lawsuit for defamation of character by Blumenthal. As the popularity of internet blogging and journalism become more popular the risk of people being manipulated by untrue information are greater then ever. Drudge admitted to being had by his sources and made a mistake, but some political operatives use the internet to deliberately spread lies and misinformation. Exampes of this can be seen in the political manipulation of web content such as politicians staff editing their bossess wikipedia site. Digital technologies also make the creation of forged pictures and video easier. "These techniques are made to order for the internet, where lies spread quickly and can do enormous damage before the truth catches up,"Dan Gilmor rights in "We the Media." It is important that professionals operating under journalistic codes of ethics continue to provide news that has been screened for misinformation and propaganda. "We believe that there is a profusion of information being pushed on people, and the more that happens, the more important it is to have a trusted filter," said Jim Berrien, president and publisher of Forbes' magazine group.

Citizen Journalism is often obsessed with the trivial and does not yet provide people with the important stories they need to know about. In an August article for National Journal, William Powers argues that citizen journalism has a tendency to make people think that small events are the biggest news worldwide and is generally of poor quality. He is especially critical of the work of NowPublic, the largest citizen journalism service in the world, with more than 100,000 contributing reporters. Time magazine named it one of the 50 best websites of 2007. "Nowhere are the merits of citizen journalism more apparent that at NowPublic. At this participatory news network'…anyone can write a story, or upload images, audio, or a video. Whatever gets the most votes from the reading masses— the site gets about 1 million unique viewers a month— ends up as the lead story," wrote Time. Powers joined NowPublic and found that this democratic form of news gathering and dissemination tended to focus attention on small regional events like transportation disasters instead of important national and international events. In a week full of important news stories about Iraq, Murdoch taking over the Wall Street Journal, and the longest serving Republican Senator, Ted Stevens of Alaska being under federal investigation, NowPublic lead with news stories about single fatality accidents in Caracas, Boston and Sacramento. He found that many of the other news stories on NowPublic included first person travelogues, baby pictures, and frequent news of the weird fare. NowPublic frequently draws content from the newspapers and other mainstream outlets that they dismiss as outdated and obsolete. In it's early coverage of the Minnesota bridge-collapse story, a real transportation disaster, NowPublic relied partly on reports from CNN, Fox, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Powers does not entirely dismiss citizen journalism just believes the content needs to be edited and formalized by mainstream news outlets. "Indeed rather than the opponents they are made out to be, citizen journalists and mainstream outlets look more and more like symbiotic partners. As the BBC showed a few years ago when it used citizen journalists brilliantly to cover the London subway bombings, and as the mesmerizing CNN/YouTube debate confirmed, crowd-powered news is most effective and useful when it has been filtered and selected by more-experienced journalists."

In conclusion, we agree with our opponents that citizen journalism has had an impact towards traditional journalism; it has allowed citizens to take an active part in the media, it has encouraged free speech, it has eased tension between traditional journalists and the public, and it can possibly be credited for the recent switch from traditional means of journalism to journalism via the internet.

We don’t agree, however, with the statement that traditional news media are failing and are being supplanted by citizen journalism.

Traditional journalism is changing rather than collapsing due to citizen journalism. Many newspapers are online, allowing their audience to obtain the news quicker and possibly easier. Some major publications like The New York Times are trying to adopt changes that integrates new technology, like blogging.

Also, citizen journalism and traditional journalism compliment each other. Citizen journalism relies on traditional journalist’s work, but at the same time, many traditional journalists have used blogs to come up with ideas and to recognize the concerns of a community. Traditional journalism has offered unbiased news while citizen journalism focuses on a specific problem that a community may be concerned about. Together, citizen journalism and traditional journalism offer a wide array of information that, over time, can only continue to help each other succeed.

Overall, the traditional news media has taken a damaging hit, but, traditional news still have high profits and readership. Traditional news is an essential part of public news gathering and will not be supplanted by a new trend like citizen journalism.

Some sources used:

Ahlers, Douglas. News Consumption and the New Eletronic Media. Press/Politics. 11 (1): 29-52. 2006.

Lemann, Nicholas. Amateur Hour: Journalism without journalists. The New Yorker. 2006.

Steinberg, Brian. Biz-news outlets grow, but will ad dollars. Advertising Age; 10/15/2007

Powers, William. Crowd Control. National Journal; 8/4/07

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