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August 15, 2007

'The citizen journalist-reader review thing'

John Stoehr

Can readers really tell the difference? Or does this devalue journalism? . . .

Once again, good thinking from our man in Lexington, Ky., Rich Copley, in reaction to this morning's post about the potential pitfalls of hyperlocalism, citizen journalism and many of the other current trends in newspapering.

I actually got into a conversation with a musician about this last week. He was saying that his big concern with the Internet wasn't so much that people were stealing his music but that with services like MySpace and YouTube, "anyone can be as legit as anyone else. You can watch someone's video online, but that doesn't tell you whether they can stand up in front of an audience and deliver the same thing live," or whether its been digitally manipulated in some way.

I thought, "I know exactly what you are talking about," because the whole citizen journalist-reader review thing makes it harder for readers to discern between a trained professional journalist and the person who just posts something on a lark or to advance an agenda. I wish papers would be more careful not to compromise their good brand names, but that doesn't seem to be happening.

Posted by John Stoehr at August 15, 2007 11:14 AM


In reaction to Rich's comment: I don't really understand the musician's complaint that, in the world of YouTube and MySpace, "anyone can be as legit as anyone else." There has always been the possibility that any given live performer may not be as good as they sound on a recording, given the ability to manipulate recordings, try again and again for the perfect take, etc. It's been that way for a long time, and digital technology is just the latest wrinkle. I don't see that there is any fundamentally new difference in comparing a live performance to a recording, whether that recording happens to be an LP, CD or mp3. There can always be something "false" about a recording.

And, to reconsider that musician's quote in another light, I should think that, especially for less-established musicians or people trying to make a go of it from smaller cities, the ability to get music out there, via the same tools available to everyone else, is highly positive. There are plenty of cases in which small bands have picked up a greater following due to the Web. (For an example, see this NPR story from 2005 about the band Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.) I think it's a curious time for music when a quirky songwriter like Regina Spektor rubs shoulders on MySpace with the likes of Justin Timberlake. They're both crammed into the same ugly format; they both seem equally "legit" in that sense. I'm no fan of MySpace (at my age, I simply don't relate to it), but it seems like it's been a worthwhile platform for musicians.

Posted by: Jennifer A. Smith at August 15, 2007 3:51 PM