Can Professional Journalism Ever Replace Citizen Journalism?

The headline of this blog post says it all – a quick contrarian post.

I am often asked if “right now citizen journalism could replace professional journalism.” My response is…. no.

There are certain characteristics of news organizations or “professional” journalism that if it were to stop tomorrow wouldn’t be easily replaced – if replaceable at all.

Since I’m often viewed as a poster-child for participatory journalism I can imagine some old-school journalists giving each other a hi-five, walking a littler taller, and feeling a sense of victory from a response like that.

But what I want to point out is the silliness of that question and pose its opposite.

The silliness of that question: If Major League Baseball stopped tomorrow would all the little leagues in the country be able to replace it? If industrial sweater factories shut down tomorrow would knitting hobbyists be able to replace them?

Nobody would ever ask these questions because the goal of little leagues and knitting groups isn’t to replace their professional counterparts. Instead, they are to create a sense of community, a positive activity for children and if they were to disappear there is no way their professional counterparts could replace them.

So I ask: If citizen journalism activities were to stop tomorrow could professional journalists replace them? My answer is no – and that will be part of my response to this question from now on.

In truth, however, that is the tit-for-tat response. So what is the real lesson here?

It is not an either/or question and what spawned this post is really just being tired of framing the question as such.

What I want to know isn’t if one can replace the other – but how the two might work together.