Blogging and Citizen Journalism

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UC Berkeley’s recent panel on blogging and citizenship journalism exposed the effects of the bloggers’ new generation on mainstream press.

            The panel moderated by Internet Pioneer Dan Gillmor analyzed current journalism and the impact blogging is having on the political agenda, and how certain bloggers’ influence gained more attention than mainstream media. Debaters Lisa Stone, Dan Weintraub, Kevin Bankston and J.D. Lasica also discussed the so-called experiment “citizen journalism.” 

“Internet allows more open conversation,” Blogger, Author and Co-founder of BlogHer.org Lisa Stone said. “Women are absolutely addicted to it.” Stone’s blog presently employees 16 editors who constantly search what women are writing about. Stone is concerned about how the first amendment protects journalists, but she also sees the importance of citizenship journalism. Stone mentioned a blogger who was the only one who reported about the situation undocumented workers, mostly Africans, had in Beirut during
Israel’s recent bombing. “There is a mass chilling effect on blogs,” she concluded.

Weintraub, public affairs columnist for the editorial pages at the Sacramento Bee and a blogger at www.sacbee.com/insider thinks that blogging has given him “great addition to [his] tools as a journalist.” He also believes that now anybody can be a journalist, and that anyone can know more. “Blogging allows people who are experts to contribute more,” Weintraub said. Now, there is “an open source with diverse discussion…that creates more exchange of ideas.” Weintraub is aware of the responsibility and the privileges of gathering information as a journalist. He is worried about the Federal Government’s pushing to eliminate the shield laws.

According to the First Amendment Project in California, the Shield Law protects a “publisher, editor, reporter, or other person connected with or employed upon a newspaper, magazine, or other periodical publication, or by a press association or wire service” and a “radio or television news reporter or other person connected with or employed by a radio or television station.” This Law also applies to “stringers, freelancers, and perhaps authors.”

“Is the importance of protecting confidentiality,” Staff Attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation and CFAC Board Member Kevin Bankston said. Bankston represented online journalists in confidential sources litigation against Apple Computer. On November 2004 Apple’s confidential information was published by an unidentified blogger. At the time, Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO, aggressively decided sued bloggers. According to Bankston, a regular updated website counts as a publication and it is protected by the Shield Law. “Citizen Journalism has the same protection under First Amendment of the Constitution,” Bankston added. Bankston is also aware of how the mainstream media is very protective and how anonymous information could be dangerous information.

Lasica, former editor at the Sacramento Bee, author of Darknet:
Hollywood’s War against the Digital Generation and a bloogger (
www.jdlasica.com), does not think that blogging is going to take out of business mainstream journalism. “It’s a difficult period of time for newspaper…but people are going to go back and embrace traditional feature,” Lasica said. He thinks that through advertisement and other strategies newspapers are going to be able to survive. “I think we have our own filters, we like bloggers and publications…we believe in press…and I don’t think that newspapers are more credible than bloggers or vice versa.” “People have created their own circles of trust,” Lasica added. Lasica does not think that it won’t be great differences between blogging and journalism in 10 years. “More and more newspapers and publications are incorporating blogging in a more direct way to spread a conversation.”  Regarding to citizen journalism, Lasica thinks that the government is going to keep pursuing people, especially if they don’t have a big publication legally behind.

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