Beyond Citizen Journalism: Weigelgate, JournoList, and the Shifting Media Ecology of America
46 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2010 Last revised: 25 Aug 2010
Date Written: 2010
This paper uses the events surrounding and reactions to blogger/journalist David Weigel’s dismissal from the Washington Post to explore three themes in the rapidly media ecology of the United States. First, the Weigelgate episode was rooted in conflicting interpretations of the journalist’s proper role, and in contested definitions of who counts as a “real” journalist as opposed to a “blogger” or “citizen journalist.” Second, the central role played by the JournoList backchannel listserv provides a rare window to study a class of communications channel that has received scant attention in the literature. Backchannel lists allow networked publics to create their own semi-formal institutions, mimicking the formal communications channels used within well-known formal organizations. Their technical architecture makes them near-impossible to study, yet the Weigelgate episode emphasizes the important role they play in the networked public sphere. Finally, Weigelgate points to the continual blurring of the public and private sphere, raising normative concerns for the future of journalism and various other social practices.
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