Word processing via home computers democratised printing. Amateur writers and desk top publishers were freed from the need to learn tricky layout, typography and paste-up skills by easy to learn packages that allowed them to produce newsletters and other printed material from their spare bedrooms. Designers and writers alike cringed as layout principles were ignored, the editorial process was abandoned and a million fonts were liberally sprinkled over the resulting products.

Easy to use web design packages like Dreamweaver, Frontpage and their forerunners left a second generation of designers – this time web designers – banging their heads against their monitors in frustration as animated GIF files competed for attention with bright purple comic sans text on a black background. Anyone who has trained for a significant amount of time to do a particular job will obviously be frustrated by the amateurs invading their territory and potentially taking away their livelihood.

The BBC, amongst others, is responsible for bringing the phrase 'citizen journalist' into common parlance. Referring to the group of bloggers, amateur photographers and people in the 'right place' at the right time who provided much of the footage and commentary around recent events such as the 7/7 London bombings, the boxing day Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, use of the term journalist has, understandably, got under the skin of some professional journalists. And you can understand why.

It was interesting to note that at the NUJ's writing for the web day this week, their approach to the web seems to be positive, at least in an if you can't beat 'em, join 'em way. The day was oversubscribed and all of the journalists I spoke to on the day agreed that writing for the web is a necessary skill in the modern journalist's repertoire. And, of course, all agreed that there's no substitute for good quality copy, whatever the medium.

The BBC's news front page today is calling for ideas for stories. The Independent is printing readers' contributions in its new section. Is this evidence of how the media is becoming democratised in the same way as print and the web before it? Is this social media in action?

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Blogger littlemissbearwood said...

Funny you should write this. We're currently in the process of launching our new News Show on the BBC Asian Network called The Wrap.

One of the main aspects of the show will be people texting/emailing/logging onto our website with story ideas. We will then get our reporters to cover the stories if they're of interest.

I think the primary idea is to raise the profile of the Beeb and also get more people into news, especially the younger generation

12:24 pm  
Blogger Pub said...

I think the younger generation will certainly buy in to this approach. Interactivity is the buzz word at the moment. Will be interesting to see what comes out of the WE conference this week.

4:09 pm  

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