Crime reporters come with a variety of credentials...and rights

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Covering crime stories is not for the faint of heart, nor is it any longer reserved solely for those who are "professional journalists." A piece in the Washington Times recently discussed this new trend.

The article detailed the August 26th verdict of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Glik v. Cunniffe. This outcome was monumental because it stated that citizens, too, have the right to document the world around them, despite their journalistic resume, and further upheld the First Amendment.

The case revolved around a man who used his phone to film what he thought to be police brutality, and was arrested when he would not turn the phone over to authorities. I am a strong supporter of quality and excellence from professional reporters, but with advancements in information sharing, I must accept (and appreciate) that news will come from many different sources; news that we may otherwise never know.

"News stories are now just as likely to be broken by a blogger at her computer as a reporter at a major newspaper."

Our textbook offers a few guidelines for reporting on crime, such as get to know the cops, but if it is they who are the offenders this advice falls short. There are key items that should be taken into account, but even if one is a professional reporter they do not always help. The article states that journalist are first and foremost citizens, acting on behalf of fellow average citizens. If we take that as our definition of a journalist, then we open up the field to all. Furthermore, if we use that as our foundation then we will leave a mark on the world that is not only informative but compassionate as well.


David Wiley September 17, 2011 at 6:25 PM  

I would tend to agree that today's world is opening up to more citizen journalism. Our world is full of technological devices and social media sources, and as you pointed out it is just as likely that a blogger will break a story.

I think there should be a point where a line is drawn, though. There will always be a need for the professional journalists because very few "amateur" citizen journalists take the time to interview several sources, research data, and remove bias from their writing.

Having credibility is a huge thing in the journalist world. A citizen journalist has minimal credibility. Once they make incorrect assumptions or errors in their information, they will lose a large number of readers. And few people want to read things that are filled with bias...unless they completely agree with all the biased opinion being given.

Mike Tweeton September 18, 2011 at 5:07 PM  

Great post Megan.

This is an interesting look at the limitations society may place upon itself of where news comes from. Granted that we wish to have our news presented to us from reliable sources, which in most cases is esteemed media publications, your blog points out that news can come from anyone, anywhere, at any time.

While we cannot trust every piece of information that is presented to us, first hand sources are incredibly valuable. With the integration of photo and video recording at our finger tips via mobile devices, is the world looking at not a collection of mobile device users, but rather a collection of amateur journalists?

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