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Citizen Journalism Should Be Local, Dang It!

The Internet has brought us so many wonderful things: free music downloads, overwhelming amounts of information, education, porn – there’s something there for everyone. Even me.

But there’s also something to annoy everyone.

For me, it’s the so-called exploitative “citizen journalism.” Read: activism in a different set of clothes. (Not all citizen journalism, mind – only the self-serving stuff.)

Yeah, I blog. That does not make me media, and it does not make me informed. It makes me a person with a big mouth, and an audience that might just possibly be listening.

Don't get me wrong - I don’t have a huge amount of respect for today’s media either, particularly after hearing some of the cowardly things that are going on in Lebanon (“Just stay in your comfy hotel room, guys, and let the natives handle it. They’re used to getting killed. Sure, they’ll give you the straight story!” Tracers.*)

*if you didn’t get that, go back and watch Chasing Amy.

But what really bothers me about the citizen journalist – or as I like to call them, bloggers with a cause – is the way they adopt any old issue and use it to promote their own agenda.

Case in point: there’s a nice little city I happen to love called New Orleans. It had a little old flood not too long ago that did all kinds of nasty things to the city. Oh, not the party and nightclub section – that part was mostly okay. But with any city, it’s the people that make up the town, not the buildings.

So a bunch of houses were destroyed. Perhaps as many as two thousand people were killed just in the city and surrounding areas, and more bodies are being discovered even now a year later. Half or more of the city’s population is still evacuated, with many more waiting in FEMA trailers for their homes to be rebuilt. Horrible. Almost unimaginable, really.

Seems to me that the tragedy in New Orleans didn’t really require any exploitation. The bloggers down there, a very active and respectable community, need a little help getting their message out. They’ve been living with the carnage and wreckage and sewage and all the other “ages” for just under a year. They have pictures galore. They have news to report, positive and negative, on what’s being done.

But there’s a segment of the blogging world that just can’t leave this alone, or even help out the New Orleans bloggers in the most simple and rational of manners – by linking to them, or by crossposting their best blogs on well-trafficked sites.

No, they have to go down and blog for themselves about it. Now, in all the blogs belonging to these folks, I have yet to find one that really talks about a Nola (that’s shorthand for the New Orleans area, all y’all who don’t know) blogger’s blogsite. (For that matter only two -- Chartreuse and 1938Media -- seem to be actual real bloggers; the others: recruited for the cause, I’m guessing?)

Where in their blogs can you read a promo for a Nola blogger who has demonstrated exemplary – and real – citizen journalism? Or one asking for help? You’d think that citizen journalists – would at least read stuff by other citizen journalists. If they’re so damned concerned about it, they should be talking about it.

You’d think that if they were gung-ho about going down to see the damage and promote a fix, that they’d also be interested in promoting more awareness of what’s going on for real.

Nope. Nary a word.

How about a link on their sites providing a place to donate to the New Orleans cleanup? Or maybe letter templates to write to congressmen or the media, demanding more action.

Hmm. That's not there either. Gasp. Shock. Dismay.

In fact, there's not a damn thing on these sites that will help the folks in New Orleans in any kind of responsible, material manner. Nada. Zilch. Zip.

Here’s my prediction. First, they will go down and take nothing but negative pictures. There will be no pics of the incredible work Nola residents and hordes of fantastic volunteers have done to clean up the city – sanitizing the fishy carnage of the Audubon Aquarium, or repairing the damage to the Superdome, or making the streets of the Ninth Ward drivable again.

Instead, there will be hordes of pictures of all the places that still need work. Sure, that’s important, but if you don’t look at what’s been done already, you’re not getting the whole picture, are you?

These images will be used for two different purposes: first, to Promote A Political Agenda. Okay, we all have political agendas. And that’s okay. But this Political Agenda will be specifically to attack Bush and the Republican party, not to criticize what the Democrats running Louisiana have done, or rather not done. There will be not a single gripe about Nagin’s atrocious decision not to evacuate; instead, the federal government not doing enough will be the centerpiece of this bitchfest. Hey, guys, there’s plenty of blame to spread around, don’t you think?

Anyway, isn’t it cheating to go to someone else’s backyard and bitch about what a rotten job has been done there? Aren’t there problems in OUR OWN BACKYARDS that need bitching about? And if there aren’t, maybe some praise and thanksgiving for our good fortune is in order as we WRITE A CHECK to an appropriate rebuilding charity instead of spending that money to travel down to New Orleans?

That brings me to my other gripe, and the other purpose these images will be used to promote. It has always been my belief that one should give in secret. A donation made in secret, in private, is a better choice for true charity than marching a parade down the street to hand your hundred-dollar check over to the Salvation Army or Goodwill or whoever. If you’re using a parade, is your motivation charity, or is it letting everyone know how generous and nice you are?

Citizen journalism should be done in your own backyard, where you are a citizen, and where you know the community. Let news agencies go out and dispatch journalists to other places. Who knows New Orleans’ problems better than someone who lives in New Orleans? All the best blogs on Iraq come from guys who are stationed there or Iraqis who live there. And you can’t possibly hope to understand the mindset of the Lebanese or the Israelis by visiting there for a week or two.

Since I’ve predicted this, it may change. We may see some pretty positive blogs coming out of this group. I doubt it. I think I’ll get viciously attacked for writing this blog*, and some Nola folks will come out and say nice things, and all the stuff I just predicted will come true.

*bring it on!

Let’s watch, shall we? And sneer. At least a little. It’s good exercise for our faces.

*Oh, and one sweetener, hat tip to GulfSails: a Chartreuse supporter, Know More Media, is even committed to paying these bloggers for their daily posts. How generous of everyone. Nola bloggers are Not Happy. A little reminder, one more time, of New Orleans rebuilding funds.

**A second sweetener: this was scheduled to happen Next Weekend as of August 2. It's nearly the end of August, and it ain't happened yet. What's up with that?

***Sigh. This is starting to hurt my teeth. Am I really supposed to believe that there is no profit being made on this site when there's such nice, clean promo for Discovery Channel all over it? I wonder if they know about this picture, archived for all posterity at Chartreuse’s post on Team New Orleans, a clear response, as the text below shows, to those who think his mission is a “waste of time.”

Submitted by:

Mr Bloggy

There has been an active and highly charged debate in the aftermath of the tragedy in New Orleans within the blogging community. To join the discussion, please visit the infamous Jack Of All Blogs-: http://www.JackOfAllBlogs.com




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