Citizen journalism is the platform that provides solutions to the mistrust the public has towards the corporate controlled news media and government when discrepancies arise from government and other establishment bodies statements and actions.
These civic minded individuals should be afforded the same protection from harassment and punitive punishment afforded to so-called professional journalists always provided articles posted to their blogs conform to the accepted “Principles of Journalism”.
The Principles of Journalism
In 1997, a committee of journalists, concerned about failing standards, began a national conversation with the public and news people to identify and clarify the principles underlying journalism. After four years of research the group released a “Statement of Shared Purpose” that identified nine principles.
Statement of Purpose:
“The central purpose of journalism is to provide citizens with accurate and reliable information they need to function in a free society. This encompasses myriad roles helping define community, creating common language and common knowledge, identifying a community’s goals, heroes and villains, and pushing people beyond complacency. This purpose also involves other requirements, such as being entertaining, serving as watchdog and offering voice to the voiceless.”
The Nine Principles
1. Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth
Democracy depends on citizens having reliable, accurate facts put in a meaningful context. Journalism does not pursue truth in an absolute or philosophical sense, but it can and must pursue it in a practical sense. This “journalistic truth” is a process that begins with the professional discipline of assembling and verifying facts. Then journalists try to convey a fair and reliable account of their meaning, valid for now, subject to further investigation.
Journalists should be as transparent as possible about sources and methods, so audiences can make their own assessment of the information. Even in a world of expanding voices, accuracy is the foundation upon which everything else is built: context, interpretation, comment, criticism, analysis and debate. The truth, over time, emerges from this forum. As citizens encounter an ever-greater flow of data, they have more need not less for identifiable sources dedicated to verifying that information and putting it in context.
2. Loyalty is to the citizens
While news organizations answer to many constituencies, including advertisers and shareholders, the journalists in those organizations must maintain allegiance to citizens and the larger public interest above any other if they are to provide the news without fear or favour. This commitment to citizens first is the basis of a news organization’s credibility; the implied covenant that tells the audience the coverage is not slanted for friends or advertisers.
Commitment to citizens also means journalism should present a representative picture of all constituent groups in society. Ignoring certain citizens has the effect of disenfranchising them. The theory underlying the modern news industry has been the belief that credibility builds a broad and loyal audience, and that economic success follows in turn. In that regard, the business people in a news organization also must nurture, not exploit their allegiance to the audience ahead of other considerations.
3. The discipline of verification
When the concept of objectivity originally evolved, it did not imply that journalists were free of bias. It called, rather, for a consistent method of testing information – a transparent approach to evidence – precisely so that personal and cultural biases would not undermine the accuracy of their work. The method is objective; not the journalist refined. While journalism has developed various techniques for determining facts, for instance, it has done less to develop a system for testing the reliability of journalistic interpretation.
4. Practitioners must maintain a independence from those they cover
Independence of spirit and mind, rather than neutrality, is the principle journalists must keep in focus. But while editors and commentators are not neutral, the source of their credibility is still their accuracy, intellectual fairness and ability to inform, not their devotion to a certain group or outcome. Any tendency to stray into arrogance, elitism, isolation or nihilism must be avoided.
5. It should serve as an independent monitor of power
Journalism has an unusual capacity to serve as watchdog over those whose power and position most affect citizens. It is a rampart against despotism. An independent press is essential in a democracy. The judiciary have affirmed this and citizens rely on it.
6. It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise
Discussion serves society best when it is informed by facts rather than prejudice and supposition. It should strive to fairly represent the varied viewpoints and interests in society, and to place them in context rather than highlight only the conflicting fringes of debate. Accuracy and truthfulness require framers of the public discussion not to neglect the points of common ground where problem solving occurs.
7. Reporting should be interesting and relevant
Journalists must continually ask themselves what information has most value to citizens and in what form. While journalism should reach beyond such topics as government and public safety, a journalism overwhelmed by trivia and false significance ultimately engenders a trivial society.
8. Keep the news comprehensive and proportional
Keeping news in proportion and not leaving important things out are the cornerstones of truthfulness. Inflating events for sensation, neglecting others, stereotyping or being disproportionately negative all make for less reliable reporting.
9. Practitioners should exercise their personal conscience
Every journalist needs to have a personal sense of ethics and responsibility, a moral compass. They must be willing, if fairness and accuracy require, to voice differences with others. The news media should nurture independence by encouraging individuals to speak their minds.
Further reading: The Elements of Journalism: Tom Rosenstiel and Bill Kovach.