Following our own tradition to present and write about new citizen journalism projects, or projects related to citizen journalism, today we will present new website specially for citizen journalists. Citizen Media Guild is the website with main purpose to protect citizen journalists and their work.

More about Citizen Media Guild and their work will say Brian Stokes, one of the co-founders of CMG.

Brian Stokes has an educational background in print and radio journalism and was employed as a reporter and radio broadcast engineer for a number of years. Now he is blogging on political issues, mainly covering civil rights, social justice and popular science matters. His current blog, Machine Gun Keyboard, has been active since 2005.

Q: How Citizen Media Guild idea came about?

A: CMG was born during a conversation with @Asher_Wolf on Twitter. We were both appalled at CNN’s sacking of 50 staffers including a dozen photojournalists, citing the availability of free content from their ‘iReport’ program. It also came to our attention that local Los Angeles TV news outlets were airing live streaming video from citizen journalists (CJs) like @OakFoSho during the 30 Nov 2011 raid on the OccupyLA encampment, not only without compensation but without so much as attribution. @Asher_Wolf and I are both sympathetic to the cause of trade unionism and agreed that CJs would benefit from a union dedicated to protecting their interests and promoting better presscraft.

Q: What is Citizen Media Guild’s plan for the future, your aim?

A: We’re planning to set up CMG as a proper trade union, which will defend the interests of CJs and promote the legitimacy of their work. Our geographical areas interest at present are Australia and the US but will be by no means limited to those places. We’re likely going to be issuing press credentials and will be making representations to authorities as requested by CJs to get those credentials recognised.

CMG will operate as a non-profit organisation with full public transparency and accountability. We’ll probably need to ask CMG members for nominal annual dues to cover the cost of producing and mailing professional-looking press badges, though we may consider crowdfunding to support the hosting costs of the citizenmediaguild.org website and other projects as they are conceived. Someday, CMG may be able to act as an agency to manage royalties for CJ rightsholders, but that’s a long way down the track. In the nearer term, CMG will discuss presscraft and technical issues, feature CJ content and amplify their messages wherever possible.

Q: How do you see citizen journalism today?

A: Citizen journalism is still very much in its infancy, but the advent of portable technology which makes real-time live broadcast-quality streaming of events possible is making it grow up fast- really fast. Viewing audiences for top-notch CJs like Spencer Mills (@OakFoSho) and Tim Pool (@timcast) have numbered in the tens of thousands during police raids on various Occupy encampments. There’s definitely a market for raw, unedited, live coverage from CJs who have the grit to put themselves in the fray. It’s riveting viewing, without question.

Q: What do you think about relationship between mainstream media and citizen journalism?

A: MSM are largely- and to some degree reasonably- skeptical about CJs. CJs normally don’t have any journalism training and their coverage tends to be narrow, unprofessional and self-interested. It’s been suggested that MSM reporters fear for their jobs as a result of CJ reportage, but this has largely been dismissed as a conspiracy theory- by myself, as well- until CNN singlehandedly validated the idea by sacking a few dozen of their own working journos.

Q: This entire year was turbulent, lots of important worldwide events. What would have known of it if there were no citizen journalists to report?

A: CJs have the great advantage of not being edited. Editors in MSM news operations have to balance the public interest against time/column-inch availability. MSM editors also have to consider newsworthiness and as such ‘saleability’ of coverage to their audiences. CJs can self-publish via blogs and live streaming websites such as Ustream and Livestream, cutting editors out of the loop, reducing or eliminating perceptions of bias by omission.

Mind you, editors are not always the Great Satan. They can be inspiring angels to their newsies, helping them develop their craft, fining up their output and turning hacks into rockstars.

Q: Citizen journalism and citizen journalists are much disputed in previous years. Do you think that perception has changed?

A: Citizen journalism is coming of age, as previously described. It’s incumbent upon CJs to raise their game to make their coverage worth reading/watching. The perceptions of poor-quality coverage are in many cases warranted- we hope CMG can be an aid to CJs to help raise their game and change the general public perception of their reportage.

Q: Your opinion about future of the media in general.

A: MSMs have become far too beholden to their corporate masters. Fox/News Corp is so tainted by the stink of big money & GOP partisanry as to be impossible to define as ‘news.’ It’s shallow rubbish designed to be entertaining to regressive caucasian Christians- and nothing else. Once a paragon of journalistic innovation, CNN has done a big greasy slide into ‘newsfotainment’ which is unrecognisable compared to the roaring, adversarial journalism of the Ted Turner days. Ted would never have kissed ass but there’s not enough bleach in the world to remove the deferential brown ring from around the lips of today’s CNN. At this moment, US broadcast network news is all but irrelevant. US cable TV news MAY have some future, if MSNBC sun gods Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews and Chris Hayes are any indication. However, news media in general are going to have to find a way to make news riveting to consumers without tawdry titillation, fluffy celebrity obsession or partisan hackery- or they’re dog food. Dead-tree newspapers with no online presence, save niche-market local papers, are already irrelevant. Newspaper websites which implement paywalls risk becoming lickspittle echo-chambers for the demographic who will pay for their coverage.

Q: Citizen journalism in the future – how do you see it?

A: If CJs embrace high standards of presscraft and journalistic ethics, they will become the new gold standard of news coverage. However, there’s going to be a certain number of pathetic, unethical partisan hacks like James O’Keefe- who, shamefully to every other CJ on earth, can call himself a CJ, but of the very worst kind. It’s CMG’s goal to help honest, ethical CJs get high-standard work into the spotlight.

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6 Comments to “Interview with Citizen Media Guild co-founder Brian Stokes”

  1. i like it …………….
    Regards,
    MUHAMMAD OMER-24389

  2. As a freelance journalist, I’ve always thought that there needs to be something in place to protect the common citizen and their work. Unfortunately, not even all journalists respect best practices of presscraft and this ends up hurting our industry as a whole — it’s even worse when CJs don’t know about the best practices and how to implement them.

  3. admin says:

    Samantha, thank you for your comment and couldn’t agree more. Being a journalist means ethics first.

  4. Don says:

    Great interview. It has been an amazing year of Citizen Journalism. Your article reminded me of this video Review of 2011, From The Streets

  5. admin says:

    Thank you Don, this is really an amazing video.

  6. Jeff Moreau says:

    Great post. There always should be ethics involved, because you will have little respect from others if it’s not there. It’s sad to see that people are not being compensated for their work. Even if it is not professional, at least give the credit to the proper people.