Tuesday, 18 May 2010

More 'oxy' than 'moron'

Frederic Filloux is a blogger and teacher, based in Paris. He edits a blog/newsletter called Monday Note - worth sticking on your GoogleReader (other readers are available).

His latest post - The Oxymoronic Citizen Journalism - has generated ... well, mostly yawns, except amongst the ubercitjguruklasse - e.g. NYU's Jay Rosen who Tweeted in response to it that - "from Paris, the worldwide professional freak out over the term 'citizen journalist' continues ...".

"Freak out" there is a noun, by the way. Verb or noun, though, no freak out.

Like I say, mostly yawns at that old 'would you trust a citizen neurosurgeon to remove your kid's neuroblastoma?' gambit. Answer: 'No'. Answer continues: 'Nor would I trust one of those journos who made up over 100 totally false stories about the McCanns to tell me how many legs I had. Let alone offer me something with "more professionalism than mere crowd-powered demagoguery".'

Let's be honest, too much of our journalism is exactly that - 'crowd-powered demagoguery' ... except the crowd is populated by journalists in what Tony Blair once called a hunting pack of 'feral beasts'.

Too much journalism is too bad to make the claims that Frederic, and others, make in defence of it. Differentiating it from random rumour and the "utterly superficial" by virtue of its "painstaking" professionalism - a differentiation that Frederic himself concedes is all too rare.

There are differences and distinctions between those of us paid to do journalism and those of us not - but 'professionalism' isn't it. Especially since more of us would trust a total stranger than a journalist to tell us the truth.

To be fair to Frederic, he acknowledges that 'citizens' have a role in telling their own story about themselves to themselves - but the mask slips when he talks about "newsrooms" having "a challenge on their hands"; that what non-journalists have to say about their world is an "input" that needs "handling".

Frederic seems to think 'citizen' and 'journalism' are contradictions - he probably didn't mean to but, put like that, you see it for the nonsense that it is. And you have to be careful, you know, with 'oxymoron' - it doesn't quite mean what you think it means. If you want to sound really clever, do the Greek: oξύς (sharp) and μωρός (dull) ... which kinda reads across to citizen=sharp, journalism=dull ... though, of course, in French that would be the other way round.

Journalists forget at their peril that the facts they deal in - assuming they are dealing in facts - don't actually belong to them. And they have no right to manipulate them on the other side of some 'professional' membrane, separated from the citizens whose lives they're both describing and - potentially - changing.

And if you don't get that, you kinda don't get very much.

Anyhows, all of this will be on the agenda at what we hope will be the biggest ever Citizen Journalism conference in the UK - it's at the LSE on 11 June.

The Value of Journalism (#voj10 on Twitter) will look at CitJ from every angle - especially, what it means to the so-called 'professional tribe' and how it nurtures and supports our civic lives.

My hunch is that 'oxymoronic' is not a word we'll be using much.


Andy Tedd said...

"kinda"? "kinda"?!

Is this part of CoJo's new Transatlantic outreach programme?

Kevin Marsh said...