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RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Do you applaud or boo CNN for replacing seasoned Photojournalists with their "Citizen Journalism Initiative"?

Asked by RealEyesRealizeRealLies (30938points) November 30th, 2011

Is a true photojournalists craftsmanship replaceable by amateur photography? Do untrained citizen photographers have the vision necessary to uncover layers of truth that tell a deeper story than what may first appear on the surface? Is Photojournalism about having a cameras everywhere, or about delving into the heart of a story?

I highly doubt most snap shooters are equipped with a photojournalism degree. Could CNN’s decision mark the end of in depth coverage?

The CNN Citizen Journalism Initiative is all fine and good. A valuable resource for late breaking news. But the Devil is in the Details. Are details best accumulated by Passers By with iPhone Cameras or Seasoned Photojournalists intelligent enough to know that Eye Candy is superficial?

What will become of the photojournalist who pursues an assignment for months, getting to know the terrain, the people, the issues from all sides, with a desire to tell the entire story, rather than mock truth by providing free front page glamour shots?

Is this good for anyone except CNN, who gets cheaper or free content? Are they asking us to drink cheap wine in a box, instead of vintage Montrachet?

Will the “Citizen Journalist” risk life and limb like Chris Hondros and Tim Hetherington did? Can the “Citizen Journalist” bring us the whole truth?

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4 Answers

Bellatrix's avatar

We need both. Photojournalists (as you so rightly point out) do more than just snap a few shots at incidents that happen when they are present. They tell stories with their photos. They have changed people’s perceptions of war with their photos. They can go to places citizens cannot. When embedded with troops for instance. Or at more private functions at the White House or other political events.

Citizen journalists do have a place in the public sphere though. Photojournalists cannot be everywhere and the candid shots taken by citizens undoubtedly add to the information we receive.

I think this is a short sighted move. To me it falls into the same category as laying off journos because there are bloggers out there. They have different roles. Both valuable in their own way but one does not replace the other.

lillycoyote's avatar

That’s insane. The “accessibility of cameras?” Now anyone who goes to Best Buy and picks up a camera is a photographer? A photojournalist? I think @Bellatrix is right that maybe we need both, with everyone having some kind of camera, even if it’s a cell phone, people can be on the scene before the professionals can get there, but for CNN to fire their entire staff of photographers and leave it up to amateurs, entirely? That’s not good, not good at all. Why not fire their news staff too? Computers are almost universally accessible too. Then everyone and anyone who’s half literate and has a computer and an internet connection can provide us all with news too. Who needs professionals anymore? I’ve got a camera! Yay! Now I’m a photojournalist! That was easy! Good for me!

Aethelflaed's avatar

It’s not so much that I don’t think there’s a lot of value in citizen journalism, so much as that CNN’s never going to be the venue I go to for that. Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook have that covered, and there’s no way CNN can ever be even a bit of a viable competitor on that. If I go to CNN (which because of crap like this, I rarely do…), it’s because I want more traditional methods of looking at and reporting news. If CNN would do that, I might actually go to CNN from time to time. But yet again, CNN proves how completely confuzzled by all the new forms of media they are. And then because there’s no upside to this, they’re just the jerks who laid off 50 people, and made the economy even worse.

dabbler's avatar

Agreeing with the good observations above. I think the correct role of “citizen journalist” is providing some raw material for trained professional journalists to coalesce into the best possible “real” story. The only undeniably useful citizen journalist contributions to ‘traditional’ news has been weather videos which is fortunately pretty objective and apolitical by its nature.

However there are some examples of citizen reporter work that are very effective, the live feeds from the Occupy movement sites come to mind. But note that their focus it clear and they are very definitely editorially controlled through their on-site tech teams. And they don’t pretend to be presenting all the sides of the story, merely the inside scoop from… inside.

But as far as CNN goes, their web site shows near-complete lack of oversight in citizen-contributed sections. The videos are topically unfocused and unconnected to the headlines they may or may not support. Most comment sections, no matter what the topic, degenerate into pro/anti Obama, pro/anti Tea Party, pro/anti liberal ranting within a dozen or so entries. No reason to expect they apply much more editorial focus to any of their citizen reporter content.

The biggest problem I see is editorial control, lack of fact checking, and no control over what side(s) of a story get covered.
And I have to ask how long before we get used to “citizen reporters” and expect their work to be factual, then the damn Koch brothers buy several thousand cameras for a bunch of well-meaning but brain-washed yahoos and they overwhelm a channel we used to depend on for facts. They already do that sort of thing with call-in talk shows, where paid clucks recite talking points over the air posing as regular folks.

It’s just a shame that real news isn’t a successful business model any more.

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