Debate 1 Pro Side Arguments And Evidence

"Traditional news media are failing. Citizen journalism, that is, inspired amateurs who find out what's going on in the places where they live and work, and who bring us a fuller, richer picture of the world than we get from familiar news organizations, will supplant traditional journalism."


We the people. Our United State’s Constitution lays it out very simply. This country is “of the people, by the people and for the people” as Abraham Lincoln said. Our founding fathers set a great direction for our nation by laying out what has become one of the bedrocks of democracy. The founders also thought the media, consisting of newspapers at the time, would be another bedrock of a new system of government for mankind. Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence once said, “The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” He also commented "The press [is] the only tocsin of a nation. [When it] is completely silenced… all means of a general effort [are] taken away."
But over the past 200 plus years, America has changed in many different ways and so has the media. Gone are the domination of newspapers with mediums like radio, television and the internet added to the scene. The media has gone through many revolutions in technology, logic and scope. Currently, the media with journalism at its center is seeing another revolution with the formation of non-traditional media. It can be said that mediums such as The Drudge Report,, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report, and the emergence of popular talk show hosts like Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh that hand millions of Americans their news. Americans get their information in more ways than they ever have before.

The latest trend in the revolution of non-traditional media is citizen journalism. defines citizen journalism as, “playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information.” OhMyNews has the motto “Every Citizen is a Reporter”. Or simply put, citizen journalism makes the citizen the reporter of news. This new concept of media scares many of the traditional mainstream media outlets. They question the ethics of the citizen journalists and rather this practice damages the tradition of American journalism. Maybe they should look at themselves in the mirror. The mainstream media has themselves to blame for this different variety of news gathering.
Americans have become disenchanted with the mainstream media and are looking for other avenues to get their news, especially among our younger generation. The percentage of Americans reading a newspaper everyday has fallen from 70 percent in 1972 to just 35 percent today, according to the Boston Globe. Just 16 percent of Americans under 30 read a newspaper daily. What would Jefferson think of these numbers from the fourth estate?

With the decrease in circulation and advertising revenues, newspapers across the country are slashing reporters, which directly affects the quality of their publication. The Los Angeles Times, one of the leading newspapers in the nation, has cut 200 positions and had a showdown with its editor Dean Baquet over the trimming of his staff. The bottom line won out and Baquet was forced out along with publisher Jeffrey Johnson.

The San Jose Mercury-News eliminated 101 jobs, the Dallas Morning News cut 111 positions, the Cleveland Plain-Dealer plans to lay off 17 percent of its staff and the Columbus Dispatch recently went through a slashing of their newspaper operations.

How does our country make-up for this loss of knowledge and ability in the newspaper industry? Newspapers have broken national controversies before, including the Washington Post taking on Watergate. Would this happen today? If newspapers had larger staffs like they did in the past, would the American people found out Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and more of the inner workings of the Bush administration leading up to the war? Could this have led to the war not being fought? These are questions we can only speculate about.

There is also a general theme from the public that believes the mainstream media doesn’t hit topics needed.

During the scandals of the administration of President Bill Clinton, nearly three-quarters of the public felt that journalists drove the personal scandals of the politicians rather than just reporting on the facts. Two-thirds of the public felt like too much reporting was done on the topic period.

Fast forward to the upcoming presidential election. According to a study by the project for excellence in journalism, so far, the mainstream media coverage of the 2008 Presidential Campaign has offered little information about the candidates’ records or what they would do if elected. The press was also shown to bias towards certain candidates, which is definitely against the first rule of journalism.

With all of these questions facing the mainstream media, citizen journalism has arisen with the new technology of the internet. From blogs to vivid pictures, tape and reporting, citizen journalism is on the scene. Well-written articles, pictures and videos on wikinews and wikipedia detail events just as good, or even better than the Associated Press. When the Myanmar government recently shut down internet service during its crackdown against those for who wanted improved human rights, it was citizen journalists who got images out for the rest of the world to know about the crisis.

The mainstream media has definitely taken notice of this revolution in information. Following Hurricane Katrina, CNN asked viewers and on-line readers for pictures, video and accounts of the disaster. Later this month, CNN in its partnership with YouTube will televise a Republican Presidential Debate using questions from average citizens. They broke ground on this approach with the Democrats in a previous debate. In the aftermath of the London bombings, the British Broadcasting Company, one of the leaders of media on the globe, worked with citizen journalists to publish videos of the attack and accounts from survivors.

Citizen journalism can also go where the mainstream media won’t with average citizens filming political rallies or community forums. They can also hold political candidates responsible for what they say by publishing film of candidate “double-speak”. Citizen journalists could also provide coverage of local events newspapers or other media won’t or can’t cover.

The idea of citizen journalism offers many opportunities for not only the American people but the entire planet. It should be a medium that we aren’t afraid of, but explore with great curiosity. This form of journalism with other non-traditional media can bring the next generation of American citizens into the arena of news, making for a smarter, more informed base of citizens. Indeed, We the People.

In Willis and Bowman's "We Media: How Audiences are Shaping the Future of News and Information, along with Jay Rosen's "The People Formerly Known as the Audience", the three authors bring to light the concept of the everyday citizen being the finder and deliverer of relevant news to the people. They stress websites such as OhMyNews and MyTown as places people can go to find important everyday news, told in a way which promotes the most important aspects of each story. With major broadcasting networks such as NBC, FOX and CBS carrying hidden advertising agendas which in turn slant the news in which they report, Willis, Bowman and Rosen believe people's patience has all but run out on traditional media methods.

There is a lack of trust, respect and interest which have all led to the decline in newspaper syndication, as well as television ratings falling at an exponential rate. The ability to have so many different people comment and add to stories which pertain to many, are a great way to bring interest back to the people of the world. The authors decided it would be best for people to decide what was important and why and that seems to be the approach more of the general news watchers have now taken. If they are not getting the coverage they would like, they will go out and change that. The Bakersfield Californian was created by a city in California that was tired of news which did not reflect that of its constituents and decided instead to have the members of the area become the reporters for the masses. In several other areas of the U.S. such as the Bronx (NY) and San Fransisco (CA) similar community citizen journalism type mediums have been created. All to serve the people in order to strengthen community awareness and involvement.

The ability to be creative in everyday reporting and story coverage has also added to the increase in popularity of citizen owned websites, blogs and other various journalistic mediums. For example, indicates how safe specific theme parks around the country are along with detailed reports, weather updates, park information and visitor thoughts to name a few. A simple yet creative idea such as this has brought people to the realization that traditional news sources will be unable to give them this kind of information. The creativity has led to a burst of new and futuristic sources for various news and looks to be a turning point in the way information is given to the everyday citizen by the everyday citizen. Realistically who would you rather listen to: an anchor with a shirt and a tie or a mother of three? Welcome to the new age.

Citizen witnesses used cell phones and the internet, finding ways around the government shut down, to send out images of bloodied monks, street fires and the protests in Myanmar. According to the Wall St. Journal, these citizen journalists were able to subvert the Myanmar government’s effort to control media coverage. Myanmar is a former British territory and the BBC has a Burmese language web site and radio service. During the crisis, they encouraged its audience to send in photos, like the ones the news service received of a monk’s monastery that had been ransacked by the Myanmar authorities. YouTube also featured video of monk protests. A blog gave updates in English of the government using fire engines and hitting people, eventually dragging them off in trucks. The Myanmar government kept out many professional reporters. But they couldn’t keep the citizen journalist out. CNN aired 65 clips and pictures during the crisis from tourists and Myanmar residents.

Why are blogs important? According to Daniel Drezner, political blogger and assistant political science professor at the University of Chicago, blogs “can socially construct an agenda or interpretive frame that acts as a focal point for mainstream media, shaping and constraining the larger political debate”.

Within six hours of the London underground bombings, the BBC received more than 1,000 photographs, 20 pieces of video, 4,000 text messages and 20,000 e-mails. According to Richard Sambrook, “people were participating in our coverage in a way we had never seen before.” On the evening broadcast the following day, the BBC began its broadcast with a package of video entirely sent in by viewers. The BBC holds a license with the British government to experiment with citizen journalism. The BBC has been educating the public about citizen journalism, through a program called Digital Storytelling. Since 2001, it has held local workshops where 10 people at a time can come in and learn skills such as crafting scripts, recording voices, laying down music and how to edit stills and video. The BBC has also launched community television that is based on community reporting. The BBC has cut 3,000 jobs and programs such as Digital Storytelling helps the network fill in the game.

The work of other bloggers like First Amendment lawyer Glenn Greenwald has appeared on traditional news like The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. McClatchy Washington Bureau features several blogs including Baghdad Observer, Checkpoint Jerusalem, China Rises and Wounded Warriors. A few of the blogs are updated by journalists.

Bloggers can be journalists. Real-time, unfiltered reports from Myanmar, Pakistan and Sumatra show they are. The question is whether a standard will emerge among bloggers they can support. Some self-policing is evident with helpful online documents like Reporters Without Borders’ “Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber Dissidents”, and “12 Important U.S. Laws Every Blogger Needs to Know”. Bloggers are responding to outside pressure. The question is how far will bloggers adjust to meet the expectations of a wider readership that includes the journalists they frequently criticize.

Michael Carpini cites in his article " Youth, Civic Engagement, and the New Information Environment" that today's young adults are "less likely to read a newspaper or watch the news, less likely to participate in politics beyond voting, and less likely to participate in community organizations designed to address public problems through collective action" compared with older Americans or with younger Americans from earlier eras. Creators of the new website, are disappointed with the mainstream media, and hope to delve deeper into the issues and candidates. They believe that today's media focuses too much on the "horse race" of the election. The site, with 400 student reporters and editors from across America, will open a conversation between the reporter and reader, to engage all young Americans in the electoral process. If today's youth are disenchanted about the mainstream media, this website will not all allow them to get informed, but to get involved.

So far, the mainstream media coverage of the 2008 Presidential campaign has offered little information about the candidates' records or what they would do if elected. A study done by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, published October 29, 2007, shows that press is bias, giving more favorable coverage to some candidates over others: Senator Obama was given themost positive treatment of the major candidates during the first 5 months of the year; John McCain received most negative coverage by the press. Sixty-three percent of the campaign stories focused on political and tactical aspects of the campaign, nearly 4 times the number of stories about the personal backgrounds of the candidates or the candidates' ideas and policy stances. This data is very much in contrast with what the public says it wants from campaign reporting. A poll by The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press conducted for this report finds that 8 in 10 Americans want more coverage of the candidates' stances on issues. And most want more on the record and personal background of the candidates. If the mainstream media is not giving the public what it wants, what are we to do? Where should we go for our news? Who should we trust to report the news? The mainstream media is failing us in reporting election news.

Sources is a media watchdog website which publishes year in review of media errors from across the country. They put together lists including hundreds of errors from minor glitches in the story to major issues with a particular story.

Resources used to gather information:

Information about newspaper decline:

Bowman, S. and Willis, C. "We Media: How Audiences are Shaping the Future of News and Information." 2003, The Media Center at the American Press Institute.

Rosen, Jay "The People Formerly Known as the Audience," PressThink, June 27, 2006.

Lasica, J. D. "What is Participatory Journalism?" August 7, 2003, Online Journalism Review, August 7, 2003.

Used Lexis Nexis to access a October 28, 2007 op-ed piece by Jeff Jacoby that was published in the Boston Globe. Also direct link blow to Boston Globe website.

Distrust of Media Pervasive. This was a story authored by Ira Teinowitz that I found on Lexis Nexis. It examined media during the Clinton campaign.

Los Angeles Times upheaval and media numbers

Also some information taken from:

Nieman Reports/Winter 2005
Citizen Journalism and the BBC
By Richard Sambrook of the BBC
Accessed by using the Ohio State on-line library

Citizen journalism continues to surge
Covering Hurricane Katrina
Quill Magazine, Oct./Nov. 2005
Story by Jon Marshall
Accessed by using the Ohio State on-line library

CNN’s appear during the process

Citizen Jornalists Evade Blackout on Myanmar News
By Geoffrey A. Fowler
The Wall Street Journal
Sept. 28, 2007

Thomas Jefferson quotes on the freedom of the media

Abraham Lincoln address

Project for the Excellence in Journalism: Youth, Civic Engagement, and the New Information Environment
Michael Delli Carpini
"Political Communication," 17: 341-349, 2000

Con Side Arguments Here

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