Web is blessing, curse

ReAnne Utemark

ReAnne Utemark

There are people on the Internet that believe that the moon landing never happened or that Tupac Shakur is still alive. More seriously, they believe that the United States government perpetuated Sept. 11, or that the Holocaust never happened. The invention and expansion of the Internet gave us a whole new medium through which to spread information and in regard to information, the more, the merrier. However, a recent San Francisco Chronicle article with the headline, “CNN discovers downside of ‘citizen journalism,'” perplexed me.

Surely, someone at CNN had to realize that one of the Internet dwellers was going to post something off-the-wall and it was going to have a major impact. The specific example cited by the San Francisco Chronicle was about one citizen blogger who posted news about Steve Jobs in the hospital with a heart attack. After Apple’s stock lost billions (notice, billions, with a “b”) Apple responded to it and explained that Jobs was not in the hospital with a heart attack.

A Securities and Exchange Commission report is now investigating whether the report was intended to bring the stock price down, according to a report by the New York Times.

So, CNN is in trouble for the random posting of some Internet dweller, which they did not filter for both inaccuracy and crazy. It bothers me that major news networks have turned to average citizens who have no training in writing coherently or fact checking in an attempt to save money from dwindling budgets. Apparently people who can photoshop fangs on Sarah Palin and make wild accusations are a better choice than real reporters with experience and ethics.

Good choice, CNN.

Of course, CNN is one of many that are engaging in citizen journalism. As a journalist, I respect the idea of wanting to make sure that if there is a tiny voice of truth out there, that it gets heard. However, I think that regular journalism and anything called journalism should be produced by people who can analyze effectively, report accurately and fact check thoroughly.

What are the ends of modern era media behemoths? To participate in a democracy? Sure, maybe. To make money? Absolutely. To empower people to report the news for themselves? I am not sure. To evaluate the news for themselves? Maybe, I have no idea.

I just do not understand the purpose of calling this iReport.com Web site and others like it news. It is absolutely not news. For the most part, it is the product of bored folks who can use Final Cut Pro and Photoshop. There can be exemplary stories by citizen journalists, but I think they are few and far between. More often, these Web sites are filled with editorialized, useless junk (like pictures of the Russian army set to the swinging “Georgie Girl”). It isn’t funny, informed, or pointed enough to make effective satire, it is just a waste of server space and time.

If journalism is going to maintain some semblance of professionalism, then it needs to maintain ethical and other standards.

Citizen journalism can be effective, but it is rare.