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Hypergene MediaBlog » Skills needed to be a good citizen editor

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Tuesday, 31 May 2005

Skills needed to be a good citizen editor

Steve Outing’s most recent Stop the Presses column for Editor and Publisher, “New Desk in the Newsroom: The Citizen Editor’s,” does an excellent job of reporting on the experiences of early-MSM-adopters of citizen journalism. One standout passage that caught our eye:

"(A) misconception about citizen editing is that the content you’ll get to work with will be mostly dreck. But Backfence.com’s experience is contrary to that notion. “The content we’ve received [so far] is better than what you’d expect,” says Mark Potts, co-founder of Backfence.com. Non-journalists “can write,” he says — “not in the classic journalism style, but it is readable, and it’s not written in third-grade language.”

In other words, get rid of the old thinking that only trained journalists can tell stories. Accept the notion that people at the grassroots level have lots to communicate and offer, and help them do that. Then you will be a competent citizen editor."

Outing also reports on what they are looking for when hiring citizen editors. To summarize:
• Basic computer and Internet skills.
• Good editing skills.
• Journalism skills and background are helpful but not mandatory. According to Dan Gillmor, non-journalists indeed might excel in such jobs.
• Marketing skills, in order to recruit citizens to participate.
• Understanding of and experience in online communities.
• Intimate knowledge of the local community. Steve Outing speculates that citizen editor jobs “might best be given to local candidates, rather than to outsiders who move to a city to take a new job.”
• Being young. According to Dan Gillmor, a younger mindset might find it easier to accept the concept that the conversations generated by citizen media can be as interesting as anything else that a news organization does.

It’s interesting that none of the sources in the article make mention of the ability to teach or educate the audience on how to be better citizen journalists. Knowing how to (and being able to) recruit folks is one thing, but it’s in the best interest of the editor to develop the skills of those recruited.

It is unlikely that newspapers will find many candidates that have all these skills. And if they do, they probably won’t be able to afford them. At a minimum, good citizen editor candidates will have some editing/writing skills; a decent understanding of online communities and a moderate knowledge of the local community. The other skills can be taught or learned on the job.

Posted on May 31, 2005 | 10:59 pm EST
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