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Citizen Journalism failing its purpose?

I just read on Poynter Online a followup about an American Citizen Journalism (citJ) venture called Backfence.com which allows community members to write stories and post relevant images about their specific neighbourhoods.

Moving away from the significant debate sparked off by Vincent Maher about Citizen Journalism being Dead, I would like to focus on another issue:

Backfence.com looks well set out and easy to use but most importantly has a strategic advantage (in comparison to Grocotts Digital Edition for example, also offering citJ) as these represented neighbourhoods in general offer a communication infrastructure and citizens with basic computer literacy. This I see as the downfall, well the hindrance of citJ actually, within communities such as Grahamstown or any community within developing countries.

There is firstly a lack of infrastructure within the communication field, but also a lack of basic literacy, may this be English or computing and since the web is based on English this would have to be one of the first hurdles to overcome.

As much as citJ could ultimately empower a community there are various socio/economic factors stopping this kind journalism to penetrate into those areas which need it most.

Backfence.com might prove that citJ might not be dead, it might show how beneficial citJ can be within a community (or not) but I think that this form of journalism is mostly beneficial in areas where there is democratic instability, oppression and a need for communities to voice themselves...but how do you supposed we bring such an empowering medium into such a difficult environment?

View this special report on Citizen Journalism


  1. Blogger Gregor | Tuesday, March 07, 2006 2:35:00 am |  

    I'd like to add this quote by Steve Outing (founder & editor of Enthusiast Group LLC) which I found in one of his articles concerned with citJ:

    "Meanwhile, I'm not giving up on my optimism and curiosity about how citJ will evolve. As I've said before, we're in the very early stages of this. CitJ initiatives that employ community monitoring/editing rather than professional editors may yet prove to produce quality content. Some of the experimentation going on will bear fruit; I'm confident of that."

    And I agree, that citJ is still such a new concept in relation to 'old media' and that my post does not dismiss its use / practicality but questions variou issues whcich need to be noticed and looked at before citJ can be implemented succesfully.