Citizen journalism in action

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Did you read about the Finnish musicians who were harassed, detained, intimidated and generally mistreated by U.S. immigration/homeland security agents at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport? Rich Broderick broke the story in the Twin Cities Daily Planet.

This is a prime example of citizen journalism. Broderick spoke directly to the people who were involved. He wrote the story and, since it included a heavy dose of his opinion about the way that immigration and homeland security function, the story ran as a blog, not in the news columns.

Some people questioned the accuracy of the report. They seemed to feel that the story was suspect, because they had not seen it in the mainstream media. In fact, the story finally was published in the Star Tribune more than two weeks later.

Broderick’s report shows how citizen journalism works and why it is important.

Citizen journalism works because individual people have information to share, and believe their information is important. In this case, Broderick heard about a newsworthy event. He spoke directly to the people who were involved and investigated the story. His account linked the individual incident to broader concerns about civil liberties in the post-9/11 “security” regime.

Without Broderick’s reporting (and without a Daily Planet to publish the story), this incident may never have been known outside the small circle of those immediately involved and their friends and families. The mainstream media has relatively few reporters. All of us walking around in our communities, talking to our neighbors, listening to musicians at Tillie’s Bean, talking to workers at the Hard Rock Café, snapping photos of the new Midtown Greenway bridge – all of us together have more information about our communities than a few reporters can gather. To put it another way, all of us together are better-informed than any one of us.

One reason that citizen journalism is important is that citizens use it to report important news. That’s part of the reason the Daily Planet exists.

A second reason is that the mainstream media listens, at least some of the time. Journalists look for news. Many of them read the Twin Cities Daily Planet and other citizen journalism sites.

I am glad they do. I want them to pick up our stories and, with their far greater resources and audience, take those stories to the world.