Ed Arnoun: public / civic journalism is not a service, but a philosophy
“Much of the criticism of public journalism — especially the most sarcastic — is based on misconceptions or erroneous judgments about what we mean by public journalism,” says Ed Arnone , a professor at the University of Miami (Ohio, USA), one from the pioneers of the public journalism movement in the USA.
- Ed, the first question asked me about citizen journalism is a terminological question.How do you interpret this concept? ')
- As far as I understand, in Russia, due to the translation, the terms “citizen journalism” and “public / civic journalism” were confused. Here they are translated equivalently - “citizen journalism”.
In the US, “citizen journalism” refers primarily to those who are not journalists by profession, but publish news on blogs and personal sites (or what they mean by news). A small percentage of civilian journalists collaborate with publishing houses that decide for themselves whether or not to send material to the page.
Public / Civic Journalism is primarily related to professional journalists. The central idea is thoughtful, deep work on incorporating the voices of public representatives into the daily practice of the media. When the movement began, the faces of the authorities, the elite, university circles, and experts of various kinds were vividly represented on the pages of newspapers. Public / Civic Journalism motivates journalists to write stories not only in a political but also in a public, everyday context, to show how a particular event will affect the life of a particular community.
- Yes, our civil journalism is often understood as the activity of bloggers.This is citizen journalism.What is the difference between an adherent of public / civic journalism and an ordinary journalist?
“For a long time, many of us who were involved in journalism reform, later called“ public / civic journalism, ”politely refused to give a definition of what we were doing. First of all, it was a conversation about improving our journalistic practices and our habits, so that they are more consistent with our goals and ethical principles. Especially in the part that concerns the journalistic story about what is happening in society. And even later, when the “movement of people's / public journalism,” as it was called, grew to hundreds of experiments conducted by editorial offices on different continents, nobody could give, did not give, did not attempt to define this concept.
But from the very beginning there is an urgent reason to discuss why we are experimenting in this field, to talk about our motives and principles that we are trying to follow. This is true because most of the criticism - especially the most sarcastic part of it - is based on misconceptions or erroneous judgments about what we mean by public journalism.
I am personally not sure that journalists are aware of the problems that really concern their community. They should get out of their desks and computers and just walk through the streets, listening to what people are saying. When you are close to people, you hear real conversations that are different from what is said at official meetings and meetings. If you invest your time in it, every time you write material, you will remember how your readers feel that they are valuable, how they prioritize.
We mean by public journalism:
To think of people first of all as citizens, before you think of them as consumers of a “product”
Formulate the problem in commonly understood terms (not in expert, not in institutional, not in ideological terms). Do your best, use whatever you have to find out how citizens want to discuss this situation. (A question that needs to be considered and revised later: On which roads do we usually go in search of news?)
Remember that an important and priority task of a news organization in a democratic society is to help create public space, in a literal and figurative sense. In this space, the community (society) could improve its understanding of the most important events and decide which path IT wants to take. This is another way where a journalist can help develop public life, in addition to improving the quality of his reporting work.
Present news, stories from the "civil" point of view. This means that you need to keep in mind one question that should be asked: “What can we do together with regards to this?” Sometimes journalists ask themselves reader's questions: “What can I do about it” or “How will this affect me ? ”It's good, but not enough. We need to ask another question that will truly wake up readers, listeners and viewers. The question of collective efforts — small and large associations that are being formed or already exist — not just “what the government should do.”
“But journalists may argue that the opinion of a responsible person from the authorities, a specialist helps the material to be more qualitative, supported by an expert accurate view.
- When we represent the government as “some other people”, as something separate from the majority of us, we misinterpret the management and solution of social problems solely as the responsibility of officials in our democratic society. The reality is that most of the work and progress achieved in solving any social problems is created outside the government, created by the hands of people and groups discussing problems, jointly deciding what can be done in a particular situation, and acting on the basis of decisions.
We do not understand popular, public journalism:
Fencing or warning in any form, the news organization from performing the role of "watchdogs" and "fourth power". There is nothing in “popular journalism” that limits journalists to being qualified specialists or investigators as they want to be. In fact, I would say that people's journalism helps to find out exactly where to investigate.
Violation of the principles of journalistic ethics and standards of honest, truthful, comprehensive and accurate reporting of facts.
Propaganda and upholding one's views. In fact, we say the opposite - create conditions for the community to make informed decisions where it wants to go. And at the same time, the news organization as an editorial office is not obliged to agree with this trend.
Journalism, pushing the political agenda (except in the sense of showing the involvement of citizens in public life). We are not talking about pre-written answers, decisions or actions for the community. We are talking about helping citizens understand and discuss a set of perspectives based on the values of this community in solving social problems, challenges and doubts.
Conduct surveys and focus groups that dictate how to cover an event.
Disclaimer of journalists to determine the significance and rank of news. It is preferable if this ranking is done on the basis of an active way of understanding your community and society.
Just “better to listen” (this is a serious misunderstanding and a disservice to the practices of popular journalism). By saying this, they nullify the idea itself.
Just an old-fashioned “good reportage.” Well ... And yes and no. Is it true that “old-fashioned” journalists are doing everything in their power to understand the people who live in their community, and what is meaningful for them? Do they attach importance to what citizens say in the same way as the words of officials and experts ... and the journalists themselves mean for them? Using a wider popular or civic perspective would be a healthier, more accurate description of events, life in the community. And when people see themselves in this picture of the day, they will return to your newspaper pages and airs, because there will be presented the world as they know it.
Large and expensive projects that take a huge amount of time and other resources from employees. In reality, we are talking about a daily approach to work, the essence of which is to make an honest daily attempt to truly describe how people live. The media can choose the path of projects or refuse to cover events requiring a large selection of materials. But there is no difference in the "equipment" that you choose. The difference is in a certain way of thinking of the “national journalist”, which is applicable to any story, big or small.
- New technologies allowed the journalist (who knows how to use them) to be faster in covering events that are significant to the community.How do you think this is a valuable acquisition?
- Be careful. Do not equate the tools you use with the idea of popular journalism. These technologies are things that are designed to help you in an attempt to make a report on social issues more civil. But they are not the defining basis of popular journalism.
Some technologies may approach what you are doing, some may not. There is no need to treat people's journalism as an infographic, a block of questions and answers, a file on people, a list of links, a video taken by phone, tweets or other journalistic formats. The tools you use are not equal to what you are building.
I repeat, we are directing our efforts so that our journalistic habits, reflexes and practices become more “popular” or “civil” - we change our attitude. This is a way of thinking, an approach to your daily work. Do not mix them with functions, techniques, tools, devices that journalists can use to achieve this goal.