When everyone is a reporter – even donors

If your interested in journalism, citizen journalism and the future of media, here is an article you have to read (via eJour). Blogger and professor in Journalism, Jeff Jarvis and Michael Tomasky, Guardian’s USA editor, “clash” in this piece on the topic of citizen journalism/bloggers and what to expect from the new reporters. The backdrop for this discourse was the famous report from a citizen reporter and Barack Obama supporter Mayhill Fowler earlier this month when Obama described rural, white voters as “bitter” (I wrote about it here). Tomasky has argued that Fowler’s reporting raised serious ethical questions and argued that blogging, like journalism, needed rules. Jarvis, on the other hand, has stated that openness, not rules, is needed in the era of the internet.

I have to admit I’m on the Jarvis side in this discussion, and think it is interesting to read how he is dealing with this new openness or challenge of disclosure:

“I reveal my politics on my blog’s disclosure page, including my vote for Hillary Clinton in the primaries. I’ve blogged my expectation to see similar behaviour from bloggers and journalists alike. I went so far as to ask my readers recently whether, having revealed my preferences anyway, I should put my money where my mouth is and donate to Clinton’s campaign. Their view (like mine) was mixed. But it’s worth asking: if I’m going to be a citizen journalist, shouldn’t I act like a citizen?”

Here is why he supported the reporting from the donor’s event:

“I think we should be applauding and supporting Mayhill Fowler. Her reporting of Obama’s “bitter” remarks – in spite of her support of his candidacy – is an impressive act of intellectual honesty. She knew those remarks would be newsworthy. She knew they could hurt him. But she opted for openness, directly to the public, around campaign spin as well as press filters: the witness reports. I’d say she showed veteran journalists how to operate under new rules of her own that, in this case, were superior to the old rules of conspiratorial secrecy.”

Another interesting question that comes out of this digital conversation at Guardian’s nice concept, Comment is free, is the fact that Fowler paid to get into the event, she was a Obama donor. In other words, she got an access other journalists didn’t have. And still, she reported on what she saw and heard.
Do you see a problem with that?

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