Learning how citizen journalism works

What is the difference between citizen journalism and traditional media?

That’s the question BlogWorld & New Media Expo, being held in Las Vegas from Sept 19 to 21, 2008, seems to not know the answer to.

Billed as the world’s largest blogging and new media conference, BlogWorld is holding a one-day workshop for citizen journalists.


While I don’t want to offend anyone with my own opinions on this, I felt pretty offended by what followed. Looking through the program overview, it appears that to be taken seriously as a citizen journalist, you need to be trained by traditional journalists. After all, as the site says, “Traditional media has tried to learn from the blogs…  Now it’s time for the bloggers and other new media journalists to mine the history, tradition and most importantly, the knowledge base of traditional journalists.”

Simply part with $350 and you too will be able to be trained by four out of five people who don’t actually practice citizen journalism… or that even have blogs. In fact, upon looking through their bio’s which are linked in the speaker profiles, only one of them (the same one) actually has any relationship with Web 2.0 at all.

And at the end, you’ll get a certificate which you can have on paper, or for those ‘new media’ types, in a web badge format! What a bargain!

I’m sure that Norg and allvoices will be searching out for cit j’s with accreditation offered by BlogWorld. Nope. Maybe it will make me feel more ‘professional’ or make me more ‘influential’ or add to my branding?

I really don’t think so.

Getting trained by old media journalists and academics who work in a model which is failing to profit doesn’t reflect the demands of journalism of the 21st century. If I had $350 to spend, it wouldn’t be here. But I’m sure many will.

Monetizing citizen journalism… at last someone’s worked out how to do it. Thanks BlogWorld!


  • Interesting! I hadn’t looked at the Citizen Journalism workshop. I was initially under the impression that this was a separate side to BWE that was organized by a 3rd party. I don’t know at the moment if that’s true or not.

    Looking at the bios, it appears that 2 of the 4 maintain blogs rather than just one. But I can see why you would choose not to participate.

    I suppose I should disclose that I’m speaking at BWE on Saturday as part of the main conference.

    But this actually has me rather confused. If you look at the site http://www.blogworldexpo.com/index.php you will see that “BlogWorld & New Media Expo” is the 20th & 21st – and that there are a few “special” events running on the 19th – the Citizen Journalism workshop, the Executive & Entrepreneur conference, the Real Estate conference, the B5 Blogger Summit, and GodBlog con. I’m not really sure what the connections all are.

    I do know that a large portion of the registration fee is for the actual conference – which has a “Citizen Journalism” track that has some great 2.0 folks in it, http://eventcosm.com/event/BlogWorldExpo-2008/track/Citizen-Journalism/

    I hope this is more a case of the website not being clear than the conference actually not offering what it should.

    I expect to learn a lot next weekend myself!


  • I had three reactions to the workshop when you pointed it out on Twitter this morning:

    – WTF?!
    – Riiiiiight
    – who are these people and what flavor KoolAid have they been drinking?

    CitJ is not about being “qualified” by some artificial process. Yes, good journalism of any sort requires decent writing and some research and analysis talent. But most of the CitJs (and they probably don’t call themselves that) out there that are good are operating outside official journalism channels.

    To me, this simply looks like snake oil sales – some heritage media and traditional educators with no clue how it really works looking to make a buck.

  • Hi Lucretia,
    After Twittering today with Dave_blogworld, he seemed to confirm that it’s all put together by the same crowd. The Citizen Journalism track is, to my mind, intensely disappointing on a number of areas.
    I do hope you get what you expect and learn a lot next weekend… and if not, simply have a good time.

  • I just read your article and am left shaking my head. It seems that people find new, and ever more inventive ways of taking money out of one pocket and moving it to another. Does spending $350.00 really make you any better a citizen journalist? I suspect not. I do wonder what the motivation is to ask, what to me is such an outrageous amount of money, is? It sure does sound like snake oil, or something you should see on a late night infomercial.

  • While this particular offering does seem to fall into the snake oil category, I for one would be interested in learning a little about the “history, tradition […] knowledge base of traditional journalists.”

    There surely is *some* value to be learned from the centuries of journalism that has preceeded us. I only hope that the right balance can be found by someone well versed in the old school who has ‘crossed over’ as it were.

    Let’s hope John Edward doesn’t get involved 🙂

  • I find it amaizing that “new media” people and “Citizen Journalists” feel they have nothing to learn from “traditional” media.

    wot, a couple of hundred years of skills is all of a sudden wrong?

    it’s the delivery of the content that’s the problem and going broke, not reporting per say, nor investigative journalism, nor ethics, nor probity.

    are you really so arrogant to say that journalism can’t teach any new dogs some old tricks?

  • Hi Jo,

    I’ll reiterate what I said on twitter this morning: “If you were attending, you could then pass firsthand judgement of the journalists helping journalists, and we’d welcome all input.”

    There’s a group of people over here who are dedicated to creating a great venue for learning at all levels of online journalism and content creation. There are no quick bucks, just lots of hard work by some nice folks. Perhaps I’m biased, but I’d wager if you’d joined us at BlogWorld last year, you would most likely have a different idea about what’s being presented and the intention behind it. And I highly doubt you’d relate any of the thoughtful educators sharing their expertise to snake oil salespeople.

    The Citizen Journalism Workshop is a new pilot program we’re launching this year. We’ll gather feedback from attendees, good and bad, and move toward improving the program to suit the needs of online journalists who aspire to improve their writing skills. Instructors and content will be matched with what’s needed. For right now, this is an exploration. Dr. Perlmutter’s put together a very talented group for this beta program, and although it’s a small part of the overall conference, we’re pretty excited about it and looking forward to hearing from the attendees afterward (positive or negative, it’s all beneficial). If you don’t want to come and visit and give input, but would rather judge from afar, you have every right to do so. But I do hope you come next year, and I’ll ask you personally what you think, what your criticisms are and any needs we could address in future programs that would help you in your online pursuits.

    Give this interview on BlogTalkRadio a listen. You’ll get a bit of a feel for Dr. Perlmutter, and while nothing compares to firsthand experience, perhaps it’ll help you form opinions better.
    http://snurl.com/3qegv [www_blogtalkradio_com]

    If you attend BlogWorld in the future, we’ll gladly listen to your input, improve the educational experience and continue to strive for improvement.

    Kind Regards,

    Dave Cynkin
    Co-Founder, BlogWorld & New Media Expo

  • Hi Dave
    Thanks for your response. Unfortunately, you still haven’t answered my query about the relevance of certification for citizen journalists. I’d really like to find out why this is such a necessary, or even beneficial thing for cj’s to have.
    Additionally, unless you’re offering me a space at the conference that I don’t have to scrape up $350 to take, I won’t be giving you feedback other than from afar… that is, unless the sessions are streamed? What a shame you keep reiterating you’re not interested in my opinion unless I attend, yet you keep responding?
    No, I didn’t attend last year as my only conference attendance in the US so far was the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco in 2007.
    Just to clear something up, I didn’t make any allusion to ‘snake oil sales’ – that was done by other comments on my blog.
    However, I can definitely see how someone might take that inference.
    I will be attending conferences which I believe are worth the dollars asked, and have valuable information for me personally. Conferences which are interested in what suits me before my dollar is in their pocket.

  • What exactly is your point?
    That you can’t learn anything from journalism professors?

    I find that very curious after reading your about page and seeing you have a degree in communications, have edited a magazine and are a TA in journalism now.

    Obviously you found some value in a traditional media education and spent a lot more than $350 on it.

    You won’t find many bloggers more skeptical of traditional media than me. That being said to suggest that traditional media training has no value to a serious blogger is absurd.

    Here are the facts.
    Dr. Perlmutter approached us with this idea of teaching bloggers that were interested some traditional media skills.

    Being a blogger myself, I thought it was a great idea. So Professor Perlmutter developed the course and recruited a couple well respected and award winning peers who do understand the blogosphere to teach the workshop.

    Amazingly enough we thought it was appropriate to pay these highly regarded instructors for their time and have quite a few other expenses involved in organizing and marketing the event; so yes we charge money for the course and shocker of all shockers we actually would like to make money if possible.

    The course covers a few topics relevant to most if not all bloggers particularly if you consider yourself a citizen journalist. How to write compelling content, research techniques beyond a simple Google or Wikipedia search, avoiding legal issues like getting sued and how to build your readership through main stream media.

    As a blogger with no traditional media training (unlike you) I find those topics to be very helpful and relevant to me. No one said this was a required course to be qualified as a blogger or citizen journalist. If you don’t want to attend don’t.

    Please forgive me if I fail to understand what exactly offended you.

  • Rick, I’ll just do as you ask, and forgive you for not understanding what I believe is a very clear point.
    As a traditional journalist with over 15 years of experience as well as academic training and teaching experience, yes, I believe there is massive value in traditional journalism. It makes me very sad that I don’t believe it’s being practised well at all in the 21st century, given the pressure of changes in society and technology.
    I also believe most blogs can be tarred with the same brush – but the standards of evaluation are different.
    Trad journalism and citizen journalism are two different creatures. Yes, they can learn from each other, and I have done quite a bit of my own lip service on that.
    But topics like extensive research, avoiding getting sued etc are common to all journalists, so that’s not really anything new.
    And gaining a readership through MSM? Isn’t MSM looking to blogs to do the same thing?
    And still there’s that accreditation question…
    I listened to an hour of the podcast – and the professor has many good points. I’m sure there will be some interesting discussion next weekend.
    Perhaps some case studies of recent news stories broken by citizen journalists – presented by those citizen journalists – would have been worthy additions. I’d definitely have parted with the cash for that opportunity.
    I hope those who attend enjoy the workshop. Good luck to you.

  • We are much more in agreement with your last comment MM 8). But I will address a few of your latest comments.

    I still don’t see your clear point. Could you please clearly tell me what it is in a sentence or two?

    “yes, I believe there is massive value in traditional journalism.”

    Good you and I agree completely then.

    ” It makes me very sad that I don’t believe it’s being practised well at all in the 21st century, given the pressure of changes in society and technology.”

    Again we agree completely.

    “But topics like extensive research, avoiding getting sued etc are common to all journalists, so that’s not really anything new.”

    Huh? this program isn’t addressed to traditional journalists. They have no media training. I can assure you most bloggers have no idea the legal risks they face from the very first moment they hit “publish”. I sure as hell didn’t.

    “And gaining a readership through MSM? Isn’t MSM looking to blogs to do the same thing?”

    Yes that is true. Do you think they are mutually exclusive?
    I certainly don’t and very much enjoyed getting links from the Washington Post, and other MSM sources to my little blog. Don’t you?

    “And still there’s that accreditation question…”

    What question?
    There is no accreditation with this program, none needed to blog, or be a citizen journalist

  • Rick,
    I wished you well and would like to have left it there, but my point in a ‘sentence or two’:
    You’ve now admitted accreditation for cjs is unecessary and thus said that your certitificate means nothing.
    I may be wrong, but I believe citizen journalists are not trying to be MSM journalists. MSM journalists have a code of ethics – cj’s do not.
    Your workshop, IMHO, does not reflect the difference.
    I believe there were more relevant sessions to cj’s that could have been run. It’s a shame you only want feedback from those who are attending. In my experience, good marketers want to know why people don’t attend as well as why they do.

  • As the community guru at allvoices, I can tell you that we want your voice on the news. We don’t care if you have the cert or not. In fact, I am moderating a panel at the E&E thing opposite the Citizen Journalism day. 🙂

    As for what could have been that day, I would have loved to see some sessions by the citizen journalism world about how to influence mainstream media instead of more of the same from mainstream media about how to be more like them.

    I believe that the biggest difference between citizen journalism and mainstream is the voice of the people. We at allvoices believe very strongly that what is important to you is probably important to others as well. That is why we exist: To give you an outlet for your voice, your opinions, your news.

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