Citizen Journalism also known as “participatory journalism,” is the act of citizens “playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information,” Source: We Media: How Audiences are Shaping the Future of News and Information, by Shayne Bowman and Chris Willis.
An informed citizenry is a cornerstone of democracy, and an informed citizenry depends on unrestrained press. History shows that all too often the government acts not in the public interest but some entrenched commercial interests or to defend the power of officials or politicians. It is therefore a primary function of a free press is to serve as a watchdog of government, responsible to the public good, and not to political or business interests.
Classic tenets of journalism call for objectivity and neutrality. These are antiquated principles no longer universally observed…. We must absolutely not feel bound by them. If we are ever to create meaningful change, advocacy journalism will be the single most crucial element to enable the necessary organizing. It is therefore very important that we learn how to be successful advocacy journalists. For many, this will require a different way of identifying and pursuing goals.
“Advocacy Journalism, The Least You Can Do, and The No Confidence Movement.” Dave Berman, 29 Jun 2004. Independent Media Center.
Advocacy journalism aims to persuade through fact-telling. It rejects the notion of objectivity, instead exposing bias to the reader and expressing explicit opinions on the subject matter. The general goal is to present facts in such a compelling, well-researched manner that even a skeptical reader or one who does not share the writer’s opinions, will be swayed to some degree, or at least better informed about the issue at hand.
Investigative journalism and muckraking might be considered forms of advocacy journalism. Investigative reports often focus on illegal or unethical activity, or aim to advance a generally accepted public interest, such as government accountability, alleviation of human suffering, etc. It might be argued that the journalist is assuming a point of view that public action is warranted to change the situation being described.
Rules and advice for advocacy journalists.
- Acknowledge your perspective up front.
- Be truthful, accurate, and credible. Don’t spread propaganda, don’t take quotes or facts out of context, “don’t fabricate or falsify”, and “don’t fudge or suppress vital facts or present half-truths”
- Don’t give your opponents equal time, but don’t ignore them, either.
- Explore arguments that challenge your perspective, and report embarrassing facts that support the opposition. Ask critical questions of people who agree with you.
- Avoid slogans, ranting, and polemics. Instead, “articulate complex issues clearly and carefully.”
- Be fair and thorough.
- Make use of neutral sources to establish facts.
Source: “Advocacy Journalism” – Sue Careless. The Interim, May 2000.
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