A fist-chop in the throat and surveillance by secret police seems to have put a swift end to the career of China's most popular investigative blogger Zhou “Zuola” Shuguang, but judging from his post earlier this month ‘Zhou Shuguang's understanding of citizen reporters and citizen media’, if you were to ask him: “is citizen journalism dead?”, you'd stand a very good chance of being told that bloggers like him can and must “do journalism”, and why. Throw in the way he coldly describes personal accounts as sample specimens below, in addition to making a few criticisms and judgments, and you might just leave seeing citizen media as both an art and a science:
Your eye for news is pretty childish.
You're deliberately directing people to take positions against the government. When you say things like, “I think government should also take responsibility”, “Zhao Benshan should take responsibility too”, this is an extremely un-neutral position. News done like this is quite a failure.
Zhao Benshan deserves to be cussed out, but that cussing cannot come from the mouth of a reporter; it's when one's reports contain no emotion or coloring that one can truly be called a media worker.
Fortunately, I haven't confessed to being a “reporter”, and so I'm under no obligation to abide by the journalist's code of conduct. I'm just a blogger, who traveled to Liaoning as a tourist. I replied to this commenter with just one question: “does what the concerned parties have to say count as news or not?”
So, I might as well spit it out, the other day it was that exact same line that made the scholar from Singapore scream.
1. Keep a balance views in reporting;
2. Keep views objective: those with views must cite others’ views, speaking through what interviewees say, and then from there take or leave said point of view, thus forming the media's view, as media has all along done. If there were no objectivity, then there would also never be any media offending larger advertising clients or political parties;
3. Keep reporting truthful, not using “according to officials who wish to remain unnamed” to tell lies like the New York Times and their Jayson Blair.
1. I put photos of my own face on my blog; I did that with pictures from Chongqing, as well as from the scene in Xiamen, as well in video I shot in Shenyang, to which I even added music, leaving readers feeling I'm quite absurd;
2. I'm not objective; I always only report on the people and stories I encounter, and I don't report on officials whom I'm unable to be in contact with. My angle as I come to understand events can only be an angle as that of ordinary, common citizens, and I don't go to painstaking lengths to keep reports balanced. The clashes between points of view in this world are not ones that I am able to bring balance to. For example, there are just as many officials as there are stupid c***s, and society has always been a shady place. Am I able to say with “balance” in my reports that there are just smart people as there are idiots? Obviously, going to lengths for balance is a foolish approach;
3. I brazenly accept travel reimbursement offered by those directly involved, as well as recklessly accept the food and accommodation they provide;
So in my opinion, personal media reporting doesn't need to strive for balanced viewpoints, and doesn't need to be objective, or independent. It only need be accurate, with the reporter stating his or her role in the reporting of any event, and taking responsibility for his or her own words.
Back to the topic above, does what the people directly involved have to say count as news? Of course, I'd say it counts. While this kind of news doesn't meet requirements for objectivity or balance, I do personally feel that it definitely is news, or at least, we don't need to consider whether or it it is news, but instead whether or not those involved can serve as sources of information or news tips.
From the Sun Zhigang incident a few years back to the Chongqing Nailhouse to Xiamen's opposition even on to Zhou Zhenglong and his tiger photos, these being incidents where netizens took part in pushing society further down the course to democracy, in addition to what I discussed in ‘Should citizen reporters charge the people they report on?’, my conclusion is:
As for what a citizen reporter is, I don't think the professionalism of a journalist applies. Just as long as his news reports aren't done in a professional capacity, as long he is willing to vouch for the information he provides, no matter how novel or far-out his news is, it's all still reliable news and leads.
Of course, if one person's personal media stands out from the rest, there is the possibility for it to become an opinion leader. But with the diversity among bloggers, there is no possibility for any one blogger's hegemony over discourse. Every blogger stands the chance to become a news provider for any public incident, and that's why all bloggers are potential “citizen bloggers.” The same way anyone could become the subject of news itself, only that those in the news aren't necessarily in possession of their own broadcast platform, as bloggers are. The difference between those in the news and citizen reporters is that citizen reporters are people in the news who also have their own information dissemination platform: a blog.
If you don't like this term citizen reporter, [then make up your own...civilian recorder, city beat note-taker, grassroots, muckraker, etc.]
Speaking of personal media and citizen reporters, people often see me, Tiger Temple and Zhai Minglei in the same light, and tend to give the two of them more praise. To be sure, they're both better writers than I am, and have more passion than I do, a much stronger sense of purpose; they're also much stricter and more serious in their work. Whereas I use more of an entertainment style approach in doing the same thing they do. It almost doesn't need to be said, that Zhai Minglei used to be a reporter for Southern Weekly, so of course he's more professional than I am, and his writing definitely bears “objectivity”, “neutrality” and “balanced views”. Tiger Temple is a writer by trade, and his writing style is great, very moving. Yet I'm not that interested in reading what they write. Why is that? I get no surprise from reading their work, no fresh feeling. I see enough of their writing style in the newspapers. There is no real difference between what's now on Zhai Minglei's blog and what he used to write at Southern Weekly; he still adheres to a newspaper's standards and style when he writes, seeking for objectivity in his work, independence, representation of what the masses believe, seeking to prevent any shadow of himself or his points of view from appearing in his writings.
Every time I read Zhai Minglei's 1bao [zh], I get annoyed. What is “firm and unyielding, myself and independent, eager opposition, crying out public opinion”…this guy thinks too much of himself, no? He even represents public opinion, but so didn't Jiang Zemin? This thing, public opinion, since time immemorial hasn't been represented by anyone; rather, public opinion has been screwed by countless people. I believe that only with sufficient sampling can public opinion be calculated, just as I believe that everyone unable to affirm that can only thus represent themselves. Zhai Minglei helped the Longquan peasants in their land struggle, and obtained their utmost authorization, as so was able to represent at most the peasants of Longquan, but not the government officials of Longquan, and he definitely does not represent me.
他们的读者大都是熟悉的媒体圈的朋友，我的读者大都是陌生的同龄人。虽然我的文章写得没他们好，但我的BLOG比他们的BLOG弄得好，留言比他们的BLOG多，各种硬件技术和网络技术的运用比他们熟练，我被采访报道比他们多，批评者和赞赏者都很多，这就证明，我的文章的传播效果比翟明磊和张世和的文章好得多。也证明，客观和观点平衡是不必要的，还证明，数字时代的民主社会需要人们了解新闻行业和技术(A democratic society in the digital age needs people who understand both journalism and technology)－－Rich Gordon。
My conclusions on the main topic of this post are:
1. Every “citizen reporter” is only just a sample specimen within a worldwide statistical process.
2. Furthering the cause of citizen media is to further people in taking as many sample specimens as possible in the statistical process of restoring the appearance of what's true in this world.
3. Sample specimens only need be true, and not objective or balanced.
4. Society is not something that a blog or two can change for the better; this requires countless sample specimens serving to popularize common sense—only by speaking for one's self can one save one's own common sense.
5. If like me you have your own unconstrained style, well, then, if you have the time, get a blog and express yourself. You'll find your friends.