There’s a bit of a buzz (or perhaps just a faint hum) in web-media about ‘citizen journalism’. Dave Hill at the guardian (Comment is Free) discusses the need for local papers to embrace the the ‘CJ’s’ and the bloggers. He even quotes Roy Greenslade in a previous article saying that:

Citizen participation is, of course, the future of journalism

That’s quite a claim, and I’m not convinced. However, it does seem like ‘citizen journalism’ (or ‘community reporting’) will have an increasingly important role to play. What that role is still needs to be worked out.

Whilst there does seem to be some very interesting progress in places (link via Dave Hill), a recent venture on MyManchester.net has a way to go.

The site hosts a feed from ‘community reporters’ and anyone can join in to add their own voice to the ‘community reporters news’. They encourage everyone to get involved and

it doesn’t really matter what you talk or write about … it doesn’t have to be ‘news’, as such, it can just be something you want people to know about.

This might work, I guess, but as it stands there is no categorisation by location, topic or type, and the diversity of subject matter and quality make the this single long feed rather useless for the reader.

It’s rather like asking as many people as possible to tape pages from their personal diaries to pavement on Market Street. Whilst it may be an interesting project in its own right, I’m not sure it would count as journalism, reporting or news.

No one likes 200 cable channels and nothing to watch, but there is a danger that this community reporters project will achieve the same effect but from a non-commercial direction.

The blog-spheres can in general be quite good at categorising and grouping itself in useful ways (see a Manchester example of categorising local output), and there are plenty of lessons to be learnt. For now MyManchester has a way to go before ‘community reporting’ is more than just a grand sounding title.

On a final note (and to counter some of my negativity), see here for an explanation of why community reporting (or citizen journalism) might be a valuable thing.