Thursday, June 10, 2010

Pro-am content: Why it doesn't work

I have written several times about why journalism matters, even in a business sense. My favorite blogger, Patricia Handschiegel, takes a different look at the same issue in a recent blog, referring to this illusory desire to use "citizen journalists" as "pro-am" content.

As usual, Patricia puts the issue in a context and language that non-journalists can appreciate and understand and, also as usual, she's absolutely correct. Stuff on the Internet is about 99 percent nonsense. Some folks, even in the newspaper business, have championed the idea of using the eyes and ears of the public to produce, um, content. Among the myriad issues of this approach:
1. Journalism is more than "what." It's also "who, where, when, why, how" and vetting for accuracy and context. It's follow-up and connecting the dots and asking hard questions. All of that takes experience, training and adherence to ethical guidelines.

2. Even if the "content" is basically accurate, it's no panacea -- it takes time and people to prepare it for "publication," unless it goes out raw.

3. Unvetted, web content can be used to market, manipulate or simply spread nonsense and lies. That describes, as I said, 99 percent of the Web today.
So, whether you call it citizen journalism or pro-am content generation, it's a bad idea.


  1. To say that 99% of the content on the web are lies and nonsense is...a bunch of nonsense. WHERE are you getting this information? WHO did the research and WHY are there no referrences for such a claim...other than referring to the claims of some blogger? WHEN and HOW did they come up with 99%? WHAT were you hoping to accomplish when you posted this claim without any data to back it up?

  2. I am SO busted. In my defense, in my first reference, I did say "about" 99 percent. Nonetheless, I have no specific research to confirm my 99 percent figure. In a way, I've thereby contributed to the very thing I'm disparaging and perhaps made it more likely to be true.