Will Citizen Journalism Replace Traditional Journalism?

Last week there was a discussion on one of my listservs about "real" journalists as opposed to bloggers; e.g. only journalists are credible resources. Naturally, I disagreed.

Whether or not bloggers are journalists in the traditional sense is becoming a moot point because "citizen journalists" are now considered by many to be just as respected as "real" journalists. Look at The Huffington Post's "Off the Bus," a "citizen-powered and -produced presidential campaign news site." Apparently the model is a huge success because just today I got an email from them announcing a new section, "Eyes and Ears," which will feature "people-powered...stories from a network of thousands around the United States."

Yeah, but who's reading this stuff, you ask? I'll tell you who: "real" journalists. Back in April, an Off the Bus blogger quoted Barack Obama in a post about a fundraiser; two days later Tim Russert featured the story on Meet the Press, as did the New York Times, the Guardian and the LA Times.

Let's see--so we have bloggers who are influencing the election; how about the stock market? Last week a citizen journalist wrote that Steve Jobs had a heart attack and Apple stock plummeted 10 points. The fact that a citizen journalist can have this kind of impact is enough to give anyone heart failure.

Like The Huffington Post, though, CNN has decided to embrace--rather than fight-- the rise of citizen journalism by launching iReport. Its tagline is “Unedited. Unfiltered. News.” and anyone can blog or post videos about news.

Here's the thing: whether you want to call bloggers "real" journalists or not is irrelevant. According to Technorati's State of the Blogosphere, 77% of Internet users read blogs and that number is going to continue to rise. Meanwhile, readership of print publications is down and continues to fall. Do the math--and then watch what you say because you never know who might be citizen journalist.