Amateur Journalism, An Interdisciplinary Approach
This week’s topic is particularly interesting to me because this convergence of professional and amateur journalism, as I have alluded to quite frequently in lecture, is a topic that is complex and exciting in nature. My general stance is this: journalism can benefit from the inclusion and empowerment of amateurs in the field.
Of course, the abundance of content from producers that are not trained in the journalism practice and discipline may be daunting to sift through; however, it could be argued that the same degree of difficulty is already present within the professional realm. Ultimately, I think that as technologies continually expand to wider publics, individuals will recognize the value in their unique experiences, skills, knowledges, and social positioning, ushering in a greater level of involvement in the journalism arena.
To elaborate further, I believe integrating topical experts (studied, experiential) into the journalism field can be rewarding in many ways. These experts may be able to contribute not only to the analysis and interpretation of news, but also in gathering information and delivering content holistically and legibly. This is evidenced by the increasing number of scientific columnists, athlete writers, and citizen reporters that are equipped with specialized information about certain beats. Furthermore, curriculums in higher educational settings are become more apt at training students, regardless of discipline, how to produce content that is visually and textually accessible. The product, I expect, will be an increase of topically-minded amateur journalists. For example, Atlantic correspondent Ta-Nehisi Coates (who is, by many, counts a professional journalist) has been lauded as a premier investigative reporter; nonetheless, he is also a remarkable historian. His affinity for history and qualitative inquiry elevate his journalism.
A different, yet related example comes from a New York Times piece penned several days ago. Three Black women professors at respective Ivy League institutions collaborated to respond to news coverage pertaining to presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton’s remarks amid criticism of the 1994 Crime Bill. The women—trained in African American and African studies, political science, and history—excavated pertinent information and historical records illustrating that critical input from Black citizens, coalitions, and community organizations about the insufficiencies of the bill were largely ignored and silenced by legislators. To me, this type of interdisciplinary approach to journalism is not only beneficial, but necessary.
Often times, journalists—dictated by time, space, and resources— are not able to provide context for particular reports or issues. These inadvertent omissions, when aggregated, can be tangibly injurious and can affect the way news in interpreted by audiences. To that point, I think amateur journalism, merely in its interdisciplinarity, can have a profound benefit to the field.