Monday, January 21, 2008

Defining the Interest Group's mission

Note: This was originally posted in November, and is being re-posted for a new round of comments -- because, sadly, it received NO comments when originally sent out.

About a year ago, an article in the CCJIG newsletter explored the role and goals of the interest group by asking current and former leaders to offer their thoughts on three questions about the practices of civic and citizen journalism.

(Use this link to reach a PDF file of the newsletter with the article: )

The article was part of an ongoing effort by CCJIG to come to a clear articulation of the interest group's purposes, goals and mission. This conversation has been going on for some time, especially in conversations during annual meetings during AEJMC conventions. But closure has been hard to find.

The question has some urgency at the present time, however, because interest groups within AEJMC must petition for renewal every three years, and CCJIG is due to undergo this process in Chicago next summer. The question of CCJIG's unique focus in contrast with other divisions and interest groups within AEJMC is sure to be raised as part of that review.

Such an important question as defining the interest group's identity should be answered by the membership at large, and this blog offers the perfect outlet for doing so. So please take part in this vital conversation by answering one or more of the following questions with a comment on this blog entry.

QUESTION 1: In your view, what is the key characteristic that separates civic journalism from other types of journalism?

QUESTION 2: How do civic journalism and citizen/participatory journalism relate to one another? (For instance, are they one-and-the-same? Distinct but overlapping practices or wholly separate practices? Are they variants on a theme, in which case: what's the theme? Are they complementary practices that serve a common goal; in which case, what's the goal?)

QUESTION 3: How can the nature of this relationship of the two practices as described in answers to Question 2 guide the mission and activities of the division?

Getting a conversation among IG members and other interested parties at this time is vital for the ongoing success of this group. Please don't ignore the opportunity to get involved!


Andrea said...

Question 1
This is actually a tough question to answer in some ways, and I'm tempted to default to Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's adage, "I know it when I see it," though he was talking about hard core pornography.

What I can say is this: the classes I teach in journalism place a very different emphasis on understanding community, immersion in community, ethics, and democratic process than do their counterparts taught from a more traditional view of journalism. My students are hitting the streets, analyzing community needs and wants, writing chapters for "snapshot books" on the state of our community in that moment. They're attending public meetings and stretching their own citizen muscles, often for the first time in this community, all as a means of learning what it is to engage and be part of the city of Wilkes-Barre.

While I don't eschew teaching the "basics" to new journalism students (e.g. interviewing techniques, lead writing, etc.), I do it all within the context of careful examination of the community in which the students produce news. This is more than occasionally uncomfortable for students because they have to engage strangers in strange places and it feels "weird and creepy" (their words). But they do it and feel accomplished for getting themselve outside their comfort zones.

So how is this different? I think that teaching from a civic perspective in my basic and advanced journalism classes requires students to far more carefully define their own roles within the communities in which they report. In addition, they must have a fine-tuned understanding of needs and wants of community members. FInally, they must see public communication as a vehicle for civic empowerment--all of which are maybe tangentially related to a more traditional way of teaching journalism.

Andrea Frantz

Ciberperiodistas MAEP said...

First of all, I want to say I`m an argentinian journalist, interested in this topics. I have an opinion formed but it’s a bit difficult for me express it. But I’ll try.
The key characteristic of civic journalism is it democratic pretention of inform about citizen’s problems from a civic point of view.


I think civic-public journalism and citizen-participatory journalism aren’t the same. The civic journalism is a movement that emerged in the earlies 90s with the goal of involve people in civic and democratic problems, to reduce the distance between individual citizens, politics and media. But, this is important, it was a movement that emerged in this way: from the media - to the people.
On the other hand, citizen or participatory journalism, it’s a tendency that began in the first years of this century and it’s impulse by the development of technology and online publishing platforms. And, different of civic journalism, it’s a movement iniciated by people, -and the most of the times-, for people (just like the book of Dan Gillmor).
However, I think are movement that have points in common: the centrality of the audience, in one sense for listen people opinions; in the other, for make them produce information.


I’m not sure, but we must think that the element in common in this two tendencies are people (audience, citizens) and we should pay attention them. Also, we must see them as two different ways of participatory audience, and not pretend to reduce or simplified phenomenons that are a bit more complex, fortunately.

Evangelina Quiroga

KJ said...

I'm not a member of AEJMC yet, but plan to become one. I stumbled across this blog as I was looking at information on the group.

I recently completed my dissertation on citizen I've studied this area a lot.

Here are my thoughts...
Citizen and civic journalism are not the same things. The way I see it...civic journalism was an antecedent to citizen journalism. Civic journalism is about trained reporters informing the community, whereas citizen journalism is about community members informing other community members. I believe citizen, or as they call it, participatory journalism, was best defined in "We Media: How Audiences are Shaping the Future of News and Information" by Bowman & Willis (
I believe this work goes a long way toward defining what citizen journalism is.

In my view, as a TV news producer turned professor, journalism has always essentially been about informing and thinking about the community (and of course making money). Citizen journalism is the chance for citizens to write about what is important to them...and the Internet has made this possible. The power to create content and distribute it to a mass audience no longer resides in the hands of traditional media...instead the power has shifted to the people.

Citizens don't have the same charge that journalists do. They don't have to present coverage that is "objective"..the stories they write don't have to be relevant to large numbers of people.

I could go on...but I'm wondering what the current mission statement for the group is?

As a newly minted Ph.D. I'm very excited about this if anyone wants to talk more about this drop me an email ( reply to this post!

Kirsten Johnson
Dept. of Communications
Elizabethtown College