I’ve got a conundrum for you to work through with me.
The Web has the ability, journalistically, to unleash the “great beast” as one of my students eloquently puts it. Open a news article to comments and see what you get.
What you get, among a few cogent posts, is virulent racism in its most primitive form, enough misogyny to make Dr. Dre cringe (since he has a young daughter to go with his sons), an almost complete misunderstanding of the nature of democracy, fear, hatred, conspiracy theories crazy enough to make The Matrix seem like a fairy tale, complete misunderstanding of the difference between:
Their and there and they’re
Your and you’re
Its and it’s
and some pretty funny shit once in a while.
Evidence: Go to the Kansas City Star on-line and follow the comments on any crime story or any story about either Missouri or Kansas sports.
Is this good for journalism?
Professional journalists are held to some pretty solid standards. You and I can debate the number of times they achieve those standards, but at least the standards push them toward a certain kind of content. It’s like the difference between truth and truthfulness. You can debate the nature of truth until the cows come home but you can’t debate whether you intended to be truthful. Good journalists intend to be fair, objective, careful. Posters, keyboard jockeys, often intend only to vent their sometimes twisted spleens.
Is this citizen journalism?
On the other hand, if you believe, as Socrates did, that all knowledge is good, then knowing what these folks think (if that’s the right word) must be good for us. This is true freedom of speech, isn’t it? Participatory democracy of the most complete kind? A genuine marketplace of ideas?
I don’t know the answer. Do you? Let me know…