Proper journalists such as me are supposed to hate citizen journalists. In fact, we’re supposed to call them “witness contributors” or something else suitably PC, according to the National Union of Journalists (NUJ). Well I don’t. I like citizen journalists. I like a lot of user-generated content.
I like the fact that communities get involved, tell us stuff, send in reports and photos and now take video and audio and comment. It adds loads and takes away nothing. I too am a citizen journalist – last week for BBC Radio’s cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew and for Test Match Special.
Men of Harlech
Aggers, as he is affectionately known to all TMS fans, had been wittering on (we of the TMS community love nothing than more than wittering) about a group of spectators dressed as the British soldiers in the film Zulu. This was a test match involving England v South Africa, naturally.
The wittering contained elements of fact and other contributors and BBC researchers fed in snippets of information about the film. We learned that it portrayed the wrong regiment, with soldiers of the wrong nationality. They would not have sung Men of Harlech in real life as they weren’t Welsh.
Aggers at various times described the crowd giving their fancy-dressed spectators a cheer as they carried pints of beer back to their seats. It was radio at its best, conjuring colourful images in my head.
Partly because I was unable to work because of my broken arm, it was the first day since I was a child that I had managed to listen to TMS all day. I had enjoyed the cricket and laughed out loud at the banter.
I set off for a dinner engagement with my DAB radio on, heard the final ball of the day on the way out of the house and just before London Bridge was listening the Aggers and Geoffrey Boycott’s end of day summary. The signal crackled to a close as I descended into the underground.
As the Northern Line train doors opened I stared in to a carriage full of slightly worse for wear Men of Harlech soldiers still singing cheerily. Mainly to protect my broken arm from being knocked I chose to walk down the platform to the next carriage, where I could get a quiet seat.
I tweeted Aggers (@aggerscricket). He responded. I thought nothing of it.
Then the next morning, I was listening to TMS and Aggers mentioned my communication.
That’s citizen journalism at its most basic. It’s user-generated content. I’ve made much bigger contributions to programmes, to websites, to magazines, all of them unpaid but because I am part of the community – the readership, viewers, listeners, users.
The alternative is chequebook journalism, with everyone we journalists want to speak to as witnesses, for quotes or as part of a vox pop or survey, expecting to be paid. Well, no thanks. If I can help out I will. I hope others will help me out in my professional work too.
Aggers has nothing to fear from me. I have nothing to fear from other citizen journalists. We are all citizen journalists.