My dad has flings like a 23 year old man. His previous fling, a 40-something living in St. Louis, had a friend that my dad was highly impressed by. This friend wrote a blog that was visited on the regular by some one hundred or so people about his thoughts on politics and history.
That is, until one day he found a photo that he claimed to be the first ever candid shot of a human. His blog burst onto the scene, gaining over a million viewers and he even earned a nod and blog post here by NPR.
His blog was called The Hokumburg Goombah, but for some reason is no longer in service. But what he became for the time was a citizen journalist. It was not his job, he wasn’t paid for it, nor was he really trained for it. But he took on the position of a journalist, trying to find detailed information on a specific subject that pertained not only to the people around him but to many people around the world.
But how much can you trust this photo, this person, this assumption? This isn’t his job, he has no code of conduct, no authority to report to. And yet everyone jumped on the band wagon off of a photo that he found.
I feel that this is the up and down of citizen journalism. It’s great to have people out there reporting and giving opinion on things that they find interesting or important. But it’s hard to know what is true and what is not. It’s usually only when reputable sources pick it up that you find any real concrete value in what a citizen journalist has written (as when NPR picked up Goombah).
In fact, Gig Thurmond, the writer of Hokumburg Goombah, interpreted a photo that NPR had already posted and written about, and picked out things that even the “experts” didn’t pick up on.
So if a source as reputable as NPR isn’t picking up on things that even the average citizen journalist is picking up on, then who is really reputable?