You'll need thick skin to be 'citizen journalist'


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Posted by Editorial on April 14, 2009 at 10:44:12:

Good article about the new media that's out there right now.


Bill Berry: You'll need thick skin to be 'citizen journalist'
Bill Berry 4/13/2009 1:27 pm

The blogosphere is loaded these days with those who are picking apart the newspaper business for its many failings, including, well, failing.

Clever bloggers have blamed everything from overpaid executives to stale cartoon strips and bridge columns for newspaper woes. Many say newspapers won't be missed at all, except by those who cruise the obits, and they won't be around for long.

For those of us who have been attached to newspapers one way or another for most of our lives, this high-horse criticism is pretty much business as usual. Everyone loves to hate newspapers. So it is, so it has always been. Of course, as time changed, and local papers were acquired by chains, people suddenly loved the old papers they used to hate. But I digress. On to more important matters.

The bloggers say that "citizen journalists" will fill in just fine when newspapers go away. So, in anticipation of this development, here is a handy guide for those who would replace reporters covering the local news:

-- Get used to being the outsider. You are not welcome in many places where you will go to chase down information. Police generally don't like you. In fact, they often disdain you. Politicians don't like you much, either, although they will use you. The coach of the local football team thinks you're negative, and even if you're not, you don't given his teams enough publicity.

-- Speaking of the local coach, remember the old saying: "Everyone knows how to edit the local newspaper and coach the local football team." They'll just change "newspaper" to "blog" or "website" in your case.

-- Go out in public at your own risk, since there's someone in every crowd who thinks you did something stupid and will want to tell you. Places where people and alcohol mix are especially volatile.

-- Don't let your feelings get hurt when you realize people don't like you. It's a sign you're doing your job well.

-- Learn how to roll your eyes when people at public meetings look at you and say, "That's off the record." After a while, you might try this response: "One sure way to make sure it's on the record is to tell me it's off the record."

-- Don't be the least bit surprised when guardians of public documents deny you access, even though the records you seek are clearly public.

-- Don't use words like "damn" or "hell" in print. Never mind that these words and much worse are uttered about 60 times a minute on cable TV. You are to be as dry as a bridge column.

-- Go to the end of the line when people bearing cameras arrive. News sources who won't give you the time of day will act like star-struck children when the TV crews hit the scene. And the TV crews always get special treatment because their deadlines are more important than yours. They are celebrities. You are chopped liver.

-- Realize that you will soon inherit the ages-old curse of seeing both sides to an issue. Of course, this won't serve you so well in the blogosphere, where everyone knows everything and there's no disagreeing with them.

Now go out there and get to work. Weekends and holidays off? Forget it. What do you think this is, cyberspace? This is the real world, bucko.

(Bill Berry of Stevens Point writes a semimonthly column for The Capital Times.)


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