i’m one of those who generally takes a dim view of citizen journalism (such as this new msnbc project). i find much of it pandering, and little of it actual journalism. not that there isn’t huge promise in partnering with the public to cover the news, there is. the key is sensemaking.
a strong hand is needed to take what the public is saying and do what journalists should do: provide context, connect the dots, weave together the threads, build a narrative.
without all of that, it’s just anecdote. i’ve been working on a version of this to cover the economy, called economic lookouts. it’s similar in that we’re asking average folks to keep an eye out for economic signs that seem noteworthy. the key difference is that we’re plugging what they’re saying into our news process, to spot trends and inform reporting. at least that’s the idea, it’s still a bit of an experiment.