Cole Campbell’s Ideas More Relevant Than Ever

Still on the subject of journalism and media… I just came across this commentary that I missed when it came out a year ago, written by Cole’s colleague and a friend of mine, David Ryfe.

The vision articulated by the late journalist and educator has provoked substantial criticism. But his insistence on bringing the public into the newsroom is also inspiring new projects for student journalists.

In his time as a public journalist during the 1990s, Cole Campbell was known as an “out-of-the-box” and innovative thinker. Truth be told, he was a bit of a radical. Anyone who would bring a coffin to a news meeting (to bury old ideas), or (gasp!) invite scholars to brainstorming sessions in the newsroom, is a bit of a risk-taker.

The news industry could use some radical thinking these days, which is one reason why Cole, who died in Reno last January (where he was Dean of the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada), will be sorely missed. continue reading

Writing in May 2007, David Ryfe notes how in the new media landscape the criticisms of public journalism now seem off point. In the year since David wrote the piece, the situation for conventional journalism has grown even more dire and conventional media everywhere are looking hard at creating new relationships with their publics (not audience, Dave).

The Citizen of Citizen Media

An interesting discussion has taken place today about citizen media. The discussion started on Twitter (so that’s what it’s good for!) and moved on to a few blogs: One was on Jay Rosen’s Press Think, where he hazarded a definition of citizen journalism:

When the people formerly known as the audience employ the press tools they have in their possession to inform one another, that’s citizen journalism.

Another was Dan Gillmor’s Center for Citizen Media Blog where Dan Gillmor looked into the origins of the term.

Citizen journalism is an idea of the 2000s that grew out of the public journalism movement of the 1990s. I won’t go into the differences here, but a commonality is in the understanding of “citizen” in “citizen media.” As I commented on Jay Rosen’s post,

The political idea of “citizen” in “citizen media,” etc. is not about being a documented citizen of a particular country but about having agency in a political community, using the power one has as a member of the community to shape the direction of the community. The term citizen is better [than] “person” because it has a political connotation. Prior to digital media, people’s power was pretty limited (remember mimeographed underground papers?). So the delightful double effect of citizen media today is that the media technologies actually help turn people into citizens.

Jeff Jarvis is proposing replacing the term citizen journalism with networked journalism for lots of good reasons (e.g., to get away from the divide between citizens and professional for professionals are citizens, too). But this proposal somehow loses the potency of how members of a political community can use and develop agency through new forms of communication.