Dan Gillmor has created a Citizen Journalist Pledge for contributors to Bayosphere.

Citizen Journalist Pledge

By submitting this form, I agree to be accurate, complete, fair and transparent in my postings on Bayosphere. I will operate with integrity.

I work in the community interest.

I report and produce news explaining the facts as fairly, thoroughly, accurately and openly as I can.

  • Fair: I'm always listening to and taking account of other viewpoints;
  • Thorough: I learn as much as I can in the time I have, and point to original sources when possible;
  • Accurate: I get it right, checking my facts, correcting errors promptly and incorporating new information I learn from the community;
  • Open: I explain my biases and conflicts, where appropriate.
I may also provide reviews (such as a critique of a movie or book) and commentary with a point of view based on facts, but I will have no significant financial or otherwise direct connection (membership, affiliation, close relationship, etc.) with an interested party.

If I do have such connections, I'll disclose them prominently, and my work may be labeled and/or categorized appropriately.

I agree, as an active member of this community, to help uphold the integrity of this pledge by challenging and reporting inappropriate postings or abuse.

I think this is a reasonable pledge. One real difference between a citizen journalist and someone who isn't is whether they make such a pledge or at least agree to adhere to principles like this. I will also agree to a pledge.

One modification that I would have to make is conflict of interest disclosures. We've talked about this quite a bit on this blog. At one time, I started disclosing conflicts on every post, but people thought it sounded boastful. Lately, I try to make it clear by saying "we" or "I" when it is an organization that I am involved in, but assume that most people who read my blog understand my primary affiliations. Most of them are disclosed on my wiki page. Any new affiliation or minor affiliation to something I am writing about will be prominently disclosed.

The only other type of article that may not fit "citizen journalism" are posts where irony or some joke is the point of the post. I used to think that such material would be obvious, but I find that irony is often missed an taken seriously. I don't have a good solution for this.

13 Comments

Perhaps they could create a tag that you can attach to posts you deem to be 'citizen journalism'. This would work for my blog because I don't do much of what I would consider citizen journalism (do we have a concrete definition for this term?) but I'd be happy to take the pledge and attach a tag to any citizen journalism posts I happen to do.

Great pledge, but shouldn't there be something about fact checking?

Sorry, fact checking is addressed. Just seems that there's some wiggle room there. Well, I guess it's a pledge, not a 20 pound rulebook.

There are so many issues with this type of idealism. The first is that it contains no definition of what the role of "citizen journalist" actually is. I still don't see how a person without specialised access can "report and produce news" with any consistencey or credibility. Perhaps they can comment on the news, but that is not a full meaning of journalism, which also includes news-gathering.

Then there are the definitions. Who defines "community"? Who defines what is "fair"? What is "accurate"? What does "open" mean?

What are the penalties for not conforming to this pledge?Terms of Service on user-contributed sites are broken all the time. Salaried journalists stand to lose their reputation and paycheck. What does the "citizen journalist" stand to lose?

And if someone could adhere to all of these requirements, shouldn't they just look for paid employment as a journalist?

Should we not view "citizen journalism" as an interesting complement to traditional journalism. Together the two can create more than traditional journalism could on its own.

A professional/an expert in a field can write a book, why should this person not write interesting articles about a specific topic?

Mark says that "salaried journalists stand to lose their reputation and paycheck" - I do not see the difference here, the "citizen journalist" also stand to lose their reputaion and any income they create by being active as a citizen journalist. Why should paid employment always be the goal?

It seems like a good idea but it's going to run into all kinds of semantic debates. What really defines who is and isn't a citizen journalist? Don't we all have some biases and how do we go about dealing with that?

Folks, a pledge is just that, a pledge. Commitments are important and disclosure is important. People who believe in these things should hold themselves to standards and allow others to judge their work by these standards. If they consistantly fail to measure up to this pledge, it will affect how people view them. If they live up to it, they will be respected.

Being paid by some organization does not make one a journalist.

The irony problem is a serious issue that needs proper attention and thought from weblog providers. An 'irony flag' would deal with this issue almost immediately and needs to be an inherent part of future versions of RSS and ATOM.

Seems like a waste of time to me.

Vigorously pointing to what a pledge on the wall says is no assurance that the high standards implied in that pledge are being maintained. People will judge for themselves and whether you have a 'pledge' or not won't help to influence their decision.

It's the blogosphere equivalent of a corporate mission statement and I'm betting only a self-important minority will sign up to it.

Noel: I think the point is that the pledge describes an intent that not everyone has. Some bloggers don't care about journalism and it would be unfair to hold them to standards that they don't feel they need to follow. On the other hand, some of us would like to assert that we trying to follow certain standards and are willing to be held accountable to them.

Joi, people will look at your posts to determine the value of your opinions, not what you say you ‘pledge’, and you will be held ‘accountable’ to what you write with or without a pledge and whether or not you want to. Your words will always be there for people to read.

There are people in the world who cannot function without rules, whether they write them or someone else does. They don’t feel safe without a policy governing behavior. In my view, it suggests a certain kind of insecurity. Alternatively, it can also suggest a certain kind of elitism - we’re “citizen journalists” while you’re merely an opinionated citizen. Therefore, what we say is more important than what you say and so on.

Blogging is not journalism. It is opinion and conversation and I do not believe it is possible to regulate it nor do I believe it is something we should ever try to regulate. After all, that’s what freedom of speech really means.

the irony flag, a patriotic idea. Anybody ready to offer his lapel ?

First they got my family with the betamax, then they got me with a laptop vaio (shame on me for giving them a second chance, we should all spend as much time in southern california in mid-winter as that machine did) and now I'm not even safe from their "content". I thought my step-daughter was dating a "hacker" at school & lying to me. I never dreamed when speaking to the kids about security with computers I'd have to warn them about their CDs! AOL should sue them, I spent hours driving them crazy over just the behaviours the kids machines did, it never occured to me to ask about music cd's. I think we'll never get a correct number of infected machines. To wit: Did your kid borrow a cd at school today?, how about last month? did their little brother stick it in his machine when sissy wasn't looking. Don't look now, the list is up to 52 titles last I read.

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