More citizen journalists needed

A recent edition of Editor and Publisher, the oldest journal covering the newspaper industry, reported on a study by the University of Missouri School of Journalism that found that the number of citizen journalists is insufficient to meet the needs of shrinking newsrooms. Here is the lead paragraph of the story:

Citizen journalism isn’t stepping up sufficiently to fill the “information shortfall” caused by cutbacks in the newsrooms of newspapers and other traditional news organizations, a University of Missouri School of Journalism study finds.

To read the full story CLICK HERE

Why are there too few citizen journalists? I can think of at least five reasons:

  1. It is a new movement. Everything about citizen journalism is experimental, entrepreneurial or totally new-fangled. Because it is new, it has no tradition, organization or universally accepted standards.
  2. The movement is fractured. It has no cohesion, no leader and no original source. It is today very much like the newspaper industry was from the 1700s until 1909 when the Society of Professional Journalists, originally Sigma Delta Chi, was organized.
  3. Not much pay in it. Most citizen journalists are volunteers or are very poorly paid. Therefore it is not a magnet for large numbers of people or top quality talent.
  4. Some derision and minimal recognition. Many professional journalists see the movement as a threat to their very survival so give it little or no credibility. Some deride the movement as meaningless and even hurtful to the news business. There is very little recognition for the achievements of citizen journalists. Someone needs to start offering a price for citizen journalists comparable to a Pulitzer Prize.
  5. There is very little training available for aspiring citizen journalists. Several books have been written about the movement, but only one book has been written for the movement – “Handbook for Citizen Journalists.” Also, the National Association of Citizen Journalists offers online training and certification.

One significant solution for the shortage of citizen journalists is awaiting development - SENIOR citizen journalists. Senior citizens are absolutely without question a demographic that can be recruited and trained to fill the gap left by the diminishing newsrooms the University of Missouri School of Journalism report speaks of.

In my next blog, I will give nine reasons why senior citizens offer the fastest and best immediate answer to the shortfall of citizen journalists.

Dr. Ross is the co-founder of the National Association of Citizen Journalists and the co-author of “Handbook for Citizen Journalists.”