Monday, April 7, 2008

Japanese citizen journalists

Japan has always been a mystery to me, so the smallest things that come out of it seem like such enlightenment, but here it goes:

In the United States, online news is divided into a few categories: portal news (AP headlines and a lot of sensational stories on Yahoo or MSN landing pages), online-only news (Drudge Report, Google News, Digg to some extent), and then there's the established media (CNN, NY Times, etc.). Blogging has started disseminating more diffuse sources, and a very small number of blogs do their own actual reporting (as opposed to meta-reporting and commentary).

In Japan, however, which has very high rates of newspaper readership, the print media was still very dominant, and five national newspaper set the tone of the news. In a Christian Science Monitor article, the author talks about the rise of "citizen journalists" who report exclusively for websites, and who often work for free and are not professional reporters. The stereotype of the citizen journalist is in direct opposition with the mainstream journalist, who must belong to a press club, and whose sources are very controlled. Mainstream journalists, some say, rely too much on the government, which isn't surprising given the corporatist leanings of Japan.

The article doesn't go into detail about the types of reporting that citizen journalists do, and I can't read Japanese so I can't really figure out for myself. The examples of reporting cited seem slightly sensationalistic (rapes, homelessness, labor rights) – these are important as news, but it's also important to have more comprehensive reporting, or reporting that taps into high-level sources and discusses the government. Of course, that's also the kind of reporting it's difficult to do if a) most of your reporters aren't paid and b) you don't have any sources in government or the upper echelons of business.

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