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Citizen journalism gone too far

Moscow I'm all for citizen journalists capturing eyewitness news. It gives us a look into events that may have otherwise gone undocumented. But I disagree with Megan O'Neill of Social Times who, writing about the anonymous YouTube video of the Moscow airport bombing, said socially driven, citizen-gathered news should drive out legitimate news sources.

Regardless of who shot the original eyewitness footage, I think that the power of web video and citizen journalism is becoming clearer and clearer. When someone at the scene of an event or tragedy, such as the tragedy that occurred today in Moscow, all they have to do is whip out a cellular phone with a camera, shoot a quick video and upload it to YouTube and the world will be able to see what they have seen and what they are going through. Major events can get worldwide coverage within a matter of minutes, or the time it takes to upload the video to YouTube.

To O'Neill, I'd say that it's totally irresponsible to upload a video of people who lay dead from a bomb; those victims deserve dignity and respect, as do their families who shouldn't run the risk of learning that a loved one is gone via YouTube.

I'm not picking a bone with O'Neill because I want to keep my job. Or that I'm resistant to the changed media landscape. Or that I don't acknowledge the profound power of citizen journalism. Hello, Tunisia. But I would argue that as a culture, we need to adopt some ethical parameters before we go about uploading videos and photos onto social media sites for all to see. It's morally reprehensible. That's what distinguishes journalists, who have to follow ethical guidelines and think about consequences, from the everyday Joe with a camera and a YouTube account. So, I'm not saying don't take the video. Just don't upload it to YouTube. Send it to a credible news organization or another responsible gatekeeper, such as the user-policed Slashdot, that can disseminate the video responsibly, which, these days, also includes tweeting. 


Did tweeting topple Tunisia?

Mouthing off in America

-- Alexandra Le Tellier

Photo: A man lights a candle at the Moskovsky railway station in St.Petersburg, Russia Tuesday to commemorate the victims of a suicide bombing at Moscow's Domodedovo airport. Credit: Dmitry Lovetsky / Associated Press


Comments () | Archives (9)

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Yes, ethics are key, but sometimes one needs to get the information out there immediately to prevent censorship and the distortion of the facts behind what really happened.


"That's what distinguishes journalists, who have to follow ethical guidelines and think about consequences, from the everyday Joe with a camera and a YouTube account. "

You have got to be kidding me! The only thing that enters into the equation is profitability.


At least the citizen journalists cover all the news; the formal news media covers only those stories they want to cover, leaving citizens in the dark about many important stories. I have to read Britain's "Guardian" to get much of the news about the U.S.

Will Burden

Of course, the purpose of news is to manage reality so we don't have to see or think about all that unpleasant stuff out there. If that's the argument for "conventional" news media, good luck.

Valley Gladfly

Citizen journalism is here to stay. Routing clips, etc., through corporate controlled entities is just not an acceptable or practical in today's world. I shudder to think how limited our news would be if it weren't for the power of the internet to spread the good and bad word.

Dan L

Ethics? Journalism?
How do you explain the existence of "Fox New?"
It's too late to police yourself. You sure won't succeed policing anyone else.


Citizen journalists need an incentive to use a gatekeeper - money. Neither traditional commercial business models nor any of the emerging models (hyper-local, crowdfunding, etc) have the ability to reward citizen journalists for responsibly covering an event on the fly. There simply isn't enough revenue to support even the most meager of royalty schemes. The outfit that learns to leverage economies of scale to deliver a reliable product at low cost to the consumer will become the filter of choice for active citizen journalists looking for some reward for the effort. The combination of traditional journalistic filters with the reach of well-managed citizen journalism would be a powerful force.


Unfortunately, ethics and morals are dead issues. Today spying on one another is considered moral and ethical, and even required, in its own perverted way. This is a mental sickness that rules the day, as is evident by the number of cameras going up in so-called free societies. Our city streets are now prison courtyards. God is truly dead! Down with Christianity and all other religions- Long live Man! Spy, degrade, spy, humiliate, spy, insinuate, spy, spy, spy.

Wholesome America

Yeah, another filter to mediate between the facts and the audience is just what we need.

So Alexandra, exactly which ethical filter is keeping the L.A. Times from providing updates on the Jeremy Marks case?




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The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.

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