I have been corrected, and appropriately so. The Assignment Zero project mentioned in my previous post is not the creation of WIRED magazine. A comment that the post received from the project’s rightful creator, Jay Rosen, brought attention to my error. Instead, Assignment Zero is a joint project of WIRED and newassignment.net. My apologies to Jay and his other collaborators (Newsvine).
In a sense, however, this innocent but important oversight tells us something about the fragility of Citizen Journalism. How is it that an experienced writer, someone who considers himself a keen observer of words and ideas, could make such an error? The answer is both simple and illuminating: sloppiness.
Had I devoted the proper time and attention to reading about and better understanding Assignment Zero, it’s unlikely such a mistake would have happened. And, for critics of CJ, this example underscores one of its biggest weaknesses: an absence of fact-checking and editing in the open-source world of self-publishing. Indeed, were it not for my sense of fairness and responsibility, the error might well have gone uncorrected.
There is no question that “crowdsourcing” can be a powerful force – a potent demonstration of the dictum “the sum is greater than the parts” – that when forces work together they can create something of larger meaning or impact than might otherwise have been accomplished. And, I suspect this experiment will reveal that, like Wikipedia and its various cousins, a community of like-minded individuals is indeed capable of self-policing (most of the time.)
But what about the blogger, the self-annointed citizen journalist who contaminates his reportage of a news event with personal opinion or editorial commentary, and does so outside the boundaries of an experimental environment like Assignment Zero? Who will be there to fact-check? Can we presume that the online community of citizen watchdogs will always ferret out these kind of mistakes, intentional or accidental? I’m not at all confident that will always be the case.
For these reasons CJ must always be viewed somewhat suspiciously, no matter how significant the contributions of citizen oberservers who are passionate about events and circumstances too often ignored by the mainstream media.