by William Skink
With the continued decimation of conventional newsrooms by greed-driven corporate shareholders, I suspect more citizen journalists like myself will have to fill the void being left behind.
Despite the title of this post, my reluctance to take on the title of citizen journalist won’t stop me from questioning the coronation of a blog that renamed itself The Montana Post to create a sheen of journalistic credibility it hasn’t earned, and does not deserve.
But first, what do we mean by “citizen journalist”? Let’s consult wikipedia:
The underlying principle of citizen journalism is that ordinary people, not professional journalists, can be the main creators and distributors or news.
Citizen journalism is a specific form of both citizen media and user-generated content (UGC). By juxtaposing the term “citizen”, with its attendant qualities of civic-mindedness and social responsibility, with that of “journalism”, which refers to a particular profession, Courtney C. Radsch argues that this term best describes this particular form of online and digital journalism conducted by amateurs, because it underscores the link between the practice of journalism and its relation to the political and public sphere.
Is it worth parsing out a difference here? I think so, because this is more than a petty gripe between longtime blogging rivals, especially during an existential political cycle where the difference between an ordinary amateur (myself) and political insiders with a past run for Governor and past (?) paid consultant work (Don Pogreba/Pete Talbot) is amplified.
The Pogie/Talbot duo know what they are doing, and so do credible local news outlets like Montana Public Radio. Two years ago, Rob Saldin was breaking down political ads, and had this to say about The Montana Post (definitely my emphasis):
You know, there is one other element of this ad that I think is notable and that is pretty deceptive, actually. When it accuses Gianforte of gutting Medicare to enrich himself – which of course is not how he would describe his position on Medicare – but leaving that aside, the visual you see is of an apparent newspaper headline that reads, Gianforte guts Medicare to give himself massive tax break. Well, the source for that headline is the Montana Post, right? Which sounds like a credible news outlet, but it’s not. The Montana Post is one of the state’s most prominent political blogs. It’s authored by Don Pogreba, a progressive writer based in Helena. (Editor’s Note: The specific post in question was authored by Nathan Kosted) And his blog is very well regarded for what it is, and it has a wide following among those interested in Montana politics, but it operates just in a very different space than a newspaper that’s committed to objectivity and to nonpartisanship. But this ad presents it as an authoritative, dispassionate, journalistic source. Not quite.
Yeah, not quite.
Another little detail I’ll remind readers is the subtle change THE MONTANA POST made in its solicitation of money back in 2018. Originally TMP said this (my emphasis in both quotes):
If you appreciate our efforts to hold Montana Republicans accountable and the independent journalism here at The Montana Post, please consider supporting our work with a small pledge.
But after a certain blogger criticized these self-anointed journalists, it was changed to what it is now, which is this:
If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we’d certainly appreciate it.
So, I may be a bit reluctant to take on the title, but if anyone is going to be called a citizen journalist in the Montana blogosphere, it’s me, and not partisan hacks stuck in the grips of TDS.
So get ready for William Skink, THE RELUCTANT CITIZEN JOURNALIST!