In yesterday's New York Times, foreign editor Susan Chira answers an "interesting question" from a reader in Mumbai, India.
Q. Glad to see you answering our questions this time. I am a resident of Mumbai, India, and during the horrific terror attacks in November last year, social media tools, like blogging and Twitter, came to the forefront, in terms of information avenues. Even though these tools display the power of citizen journalism, why is it that credibility is such an issue with blogger and tweeters and not with mainstream media? Especially when in dire situations, the on-the-go Twitter user provides more updates than a regular news channel. ... Is there a credibility gap or is mainstream media refusing to accept that blogs and tweets are the new face of journalism?More here.— Rehab G. Chougle, Mumbai
A. Dear Mr. Chougle: . . . Like many tools of the Web, Twitter, blogs and citizen journalists can be an important resource, but also present signficant challenges. Obviously, I'm biased because I'm a product of the mainstream media. But journalists in the mainstream media are expected to meet well-established criteria and standards. They go through training, sometimes in professional schools and sometimes on the job, which helps them make decisions about the reliability of information that are far more complicated than I think many citizen journalists, bloggers or Twitterers may realize. How do you weigh when a source is telling the truth? How do you identify people's ideological agendas, and how that may color the information or opinions or analysis they pass on? When are you satisified you have independently confirmed information or facts you are told to consider as a given? While of course we at the Times may stumble,and make mistakes, anyone hired here or sent abroad as a foreign correspondent has proven, again and again, that he or she understands those standards and can meet them. And The Times is an institution that can be held accountable for its errors. . . .
Plus see: Some thoughts on citizen journalism and Mumbai
Also: A sustainable model emerges
And: CCJIG's program for the 2009 Boston convention
And: 3G technology promises more power to citizen journalists
And: A sustainable model emerges