Journalism began to change drastically with the birth of the Internet in the early nineties, when some newspapers began to post their content to the web. By the turn of the century, almost every newspaper in the country could be accessed online in its entirety. Today, many local newspapers are having trouble adopting successful online business models. In just the first half of 2009, 105 local newspapers were discontinued and 10,000 newspaper workers lost their jobs. Because so many local newspapers have died, millions of United States citizens now get their local news through online blogs. My research involves analyzing whether or not blogs are able to effectively report local news. This is important since without local news, we cannot make informed decisions about the issues that affect us and our community.
In an article from The Online Journalism Review, Jason Stverak answers questions that many critics have about citizen journalism: With the accelerating decline of professional investigative journalists at state-wide newspapers and television stations, how is corruption supposed to be exposed? Who is scrutinizing the mountain of public records and attending meetings? Who is developing sources and asking tough questions to expose fraud, corruption and waste? Stverak mentions a sleu of breaking news stories that citizen journalists uncovered and reported. For example, an online citizen journalist in Texas recently discovered that the Department of Homeland Security lost nearly 1,000 computers in 2008. But Stverak only gives examples of successful citizen journalism in national news. Local news is never mentioned. This might simply be because local news, for the citizen journalist, is not as profitable as national news. As Kristen Johnson, an assistant professor in the communications department at Elizabethtown Collgee, said, “Most citizen journalists are not paid anything for their work and lack the motivation to help a for-profit entity continue to make a profit. Citizens cannot and should not be viewed as free labor.” Still, citizen journalism might play a role that traditional journalism cannot.
David Kravitz, Stanford University