Mark Glaser of Media Shift recently email interviewed Rick Skrenta, CEO of citizen news aggregator Topix.net on the emergence of citizen journalism on the Topix forums and how something like this might lead to better professional/citizen journalist collaborations:
Glaser: You become the accidental center for citizen journalism. But one other question: How do you trust the info that you get, the eyewitness reports?
Skrenta: Yeah, that’s always a big question that real journalists ask. The public doesn’t have the same issue though. They’ve gotten savvier. They can appropriately judge the sources of what they read. You read online forums — or blogs for that matter — with a grain of salt, and with skepticism. The public needs to be their own editor.
This mirrors the elimination of the middlemen in other online activities. No more travel agents — we all have to use the seat selectors on Expedia ourselves now, and suffer the consequences if we botch our vacation plans. No more stockbrokers to tell you what to invest in; here’s the Schwab website, read some articles and make your own trades. And here’s a big pile of first source accounts — blogs, press releases, forums, a spectrum of news sites from Fox to the NY Times. Read it all and make up your own mind; everyone has to be their own editor now. . .
Glaser: I understand what you mean about journalists losing their place as the middleman. But then what will be their place in the future? They can’t be completely eliminated, but what happens to them and their authority?
Skrenta: I definitely believe there’s still a role for them. A lot of the story collecting — reporting — simply won’t happen without full time journalists paying attention and doing their jobs. Especially on local politics, investigative journalism, consumer advocacy. I also think there is value to the analysis that good journalism can provide around a story.
But journalists won’t have a monopoly on the newsfeed to the consumer.
They’ll be just another channel.
Continue reading: If You See News, Where Do You Report It?