whistlestop caboose

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www.zidao.com Apprentice harmonizer, for sheer fun. Journeywoman writer, for work and pleasure. Starting point was Iowa, current stopping point on this journey is Switzerland, with frequent pauses around the world to watch and listen to the crowd, and occasionally make comments.

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Tulips 2006 for Gran ellengwallace's Tulips 2006 for Gran photoset

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Hazardous Ln --->


The things we shoot
[This post has been reformatted, March 15]

Hazardous Ln --->
Hazardous Ln --->,
originally uploaded by woofer95828.

The world news, small scale, in images

Every day I visit Flickr, where I often post photos, but mainly where I see what the world is shooting. I get my news about the world, in images. It's not the world of Slobodan Milosevic and bombings in Iraq, or not often, but it is very real and constitutes a visual diary of the daily life of much of the planet.

I'm a big believe in community journalism: our view of the world starts at home and then is developed in the community we know. The bigger world of regional/national/international news only makes sense in the context of well-honed skills for following news more locally.

Too few newspapers work at helping their audiences refine their ability to absorb and reflect on news.

The blogging world chatters a good deal about citizen reporters, much of it trendy rubbish, not thought through. The link here is to a Swiss newspaper, in French, which yesterday ran a full page in its print edition about citizen reporters, calling them journalists - but the online version of the paper and its freebie spinoff, Matin Bleu, are frenetic and poorly organized, for people who don't stop moving. You can't search for the article today. This is just plain messiness, with too little foresight, which says much about where they see their audience (under age 24, which is 8 out of 10 bloggers in France).

I see little written about the role of citizen photographers. I think this is an overlooked, significant development. The visual news is odd and varied, just like people, and it stretches my view of the world, just as reading blogs does.

On the Flickr blog I just read about an exciting wildlife (whale) tracking success thanks to photos here. I also saw a stunning photo of a ghost town and I've written to the photographer to ask where in the world he found this haunting, deserted snow and ice covered main street. It feels like a lost corner of old Yugoslavia, and it brings to mind towns I saw near Sarajevo shortly after the war there end. But it might be Colorado. That's a curious mental link, which leads to reflections on what gold rushes and economic discrimination might have in common.

I saw photos from a garden in Japan, where spring flowers are up, and the photo above from Sacramento, California, where flooding has the river running amok. A Brazilian astounded me with his photos of people, which reminded me that like too many serious amateur photographers I find it easier to shoot scenes than individuals.

So far, most photographes on Flickr don't claim to be citizen reporters, as do too many bloggers who believe that it's enough to say I came, I saw, I wrote about it, without any concern for finding balance and putting the story in perspective. This has always been the hard part of a journalist's job. True, some do it better than others, but it is a defining aspect of the job.

The world of reporting is better for blogs and the strong participation of the citizen reporter, whether these people are writing or photographing. Their own initial enthusiasm is marked by euphoria at the freedom to publish. At some point soon, though, the newness will wear off and the waves of words and images hitting us will start to lose their value. The exceptions will be bloggers who develop a sense of responsibility for their reporting.

Curiously, a strong thread of that runs through the Flickr photos I see, and there is enormous respect in Flickr comments for people whose images are designed to "report."

I think something like citizen reporters happened in the Wild West and young states in the U.S. in the 19th century, with the arrival of the telegraph playing a role. What goes round comes round.

Time to check my journalism history books. And search the web, of course.

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