Emily Bell, editor of Guardian Online, writes about new proposed guidelines from the NUJ regarding citizen journalists, or “witness contributors” as they rather bizarrely call them. The real thrust of the argument is that only professional journalists can be relied upon to tell the truth in a consistent and unbiased way.
Emily, with some practical experience of that about which she speaks, is not so sure it will work: “If the Canutes who wish the internet had never happened looked around, they would see dozens of services offering words and pictures on all manner of topics without a single professional or paid-for contribution, none of them traditional media organisations. It does not mean those of us working in new media should never engage our brains, or that quality of output should be sacrificed for quantity, but one can work in a world where readers answer back, and include them in a conversation without making it a subject of bizarre demarcation. Most of us should know enough by now to hold up our hands and say we know almost nothing about the future of the media and how it will develop. What is worrying is that those who know least seem determined to exercise impossible certainty.”