Last week my class had a chance to speak with Firuzeh Shokooh Valle, the Spanish language editor for Global Voices, an open source citizen-journalism website meant to offer on the ground coverage in every corner of the world.
Although I believe citizen journalism is by no means a replacement for a professionally trained newsroom, I certainly feel there is a place for the citizen journalist in the brave new world of online journalism.
While we were talking about Global Voices, I cruised around the Libya page and was surprised to find the posts and videos offered answers about the men and women behind the ongoing revolution that the mainstream media based in Tripoli had failed to answer for weeks.
While I would not expect the average Libyan blogger to have the most up to date press releases from NATO or the White House, I was pleased to see that many residents have begun to upload long videos of themselves tooling around various liberated cities, offering myself and others a chance to see the revolution from the ground level, rather than through satalite images and maps provided by most conventional media outlets.
To be honest though, the more I searched Global Voices and listened to Valle, the more I started to realize that while professional journalists and their citizen counterparts share a similar mission of informing their viewers about breaking news, there is no reason why the two cannot coexist. As I see it, the professionals will always have the most accurate body counts, maps and summaries of the day’s events, but Global Voices bloggers serve as more of a social barometer for a given area.
I asked Valle how she can treat figures provided by potentially misinformed (or biased) bloggers as fact to which she replied “When I am editing from outside of the country, I am always reading lots of different accounts at the same time. It gives you a sense of what is happening, it may be difficult to say ‘this is 100 percent what is happening,’ but you can write ‘this is a sense of what is happening, what people are feeling and thinking.’”
With that approach in mind, I have something of a newfound respect for the citizen journalist, not as an unpaid reporter of fact, but rather as a collective expression of feeling. Given how national emotions have played such a large role in the past months’ revolutions, I think the information found on Global Voices cannot be ignored.