Thursday, February 26, 2009

"The future lies in alternative journalism, not in citizen journalism"

Douglas Biggers, who co-founded the Tucson Weekly 25 years back, roots for the alternative papers to emerge as "the future of journalism" even as he contrasts them with blogs.

On alternative journalism:
When the Tucson Weekly first appeared in February 1984, there were about 30 similar newspapers in mainly larger cities that loosely banded together in a trade group called the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. Now numbering about 130, alt-weeklies are a vital part of any city's media landscape, providing a distinct point of view and a personality that was in many ways entirely unique prior to the rise of the Web and the blogosphere.

For the most part, alt-weeklies have maintained a commitment to investigative journalism and a willingness to pursue the kinds of stories that have been neglected by daily newspapers. Regarding cultural coverage, alt-weeklies have often led the way in promoting and engaging with music, theater, dance and the visual arts, providing coverage that has been essential to nurturing those art forms in their respective communities. And the alt-weeklies have been the incubator for a unique and precious art form, the alternative comic (which has recently come under threat as papers cut their budgets in response to declining revenues--but fortunately, not at the Tucson Weekly). These papers matter, and they may well be the future of journalism in this country as the dailies face an increasingly dim horizon.

On citizen journalism:
"Citizen journalism" may have its place as practiced in the blogosphere, but if we are to substantively hold our politicians and business leaders accountable for their actions, we need to ensure the preservation of the institution of the press and those who constitute its foot soldiers. Whether it's a commitment to some form of "professionalism"--which can be debated, perhaps--or the grounding and depth that comes from a kind of collective journalistic memory and ethos, nothing can replace the importance of the role that a free and capable press plays in maintaining some semblance of a democratic society that is responsive to the citizenry. Without the press, the likely result is a cacophony of random voices without focus or form, which is akin to the voice of a mob and a clear detriment to a civil society.
Find Mr. Biggers' article here.

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