Who can do citizen journalism?
After Magnus Ljungkvist received Nyhetspriset, a Swedish citizen journalism award presented by Politikerbloggen, criticism has been heard. He received the award for revealing that then minister Borelius had a high income when she claimed she could not afford to pay employment taxes for hiring a nanny. Borelius resigned shortly after this.
The two main critics, Fredrik R Krohnman and Jonathan Leman, claim that it’s not correct to call Ljungkvist’s scoop citizen journalism since Ljungkvist’s employed by a political party (the social democrats, where he works as press speaksperson).
The blog is however not an official social democrat blog, but his private publishing space.
The critique and the discussion that’s followed is interesting because it sheds light on an important question: Who can call himself/herself a citizen journalist? In Krohnman’s and Leman’s argumentation I see the same views as some of the more conservative SJF (Swedish journalists’ union) members gave voice to at a debate I took part of in Stockholm in May. The idea that journalism is defined by who does it. And now Krohnman/Leman uses the same argumentation for citizen journalism.
Citizen journalism is most often not objective. What is important though is transparency, to clearly state what allegiances you have.
This is the one bit of critisism that I can partly agree with. It is not obvious from Ljungkvist’s blog that he works for the social democrats.
But: Doing so does not exclude him from performing acts of citizen journalism. For me, that is exactly how you can define it: If you perform an act of journalism that is journalism. But you also need to be very open about anything that could have influenced your angles when you report a story.
I think Ljungkvist’s scoop is qualified to be called an act of citizen journalism. Even though it is not obvious for a new reader of his blog Magnus Tankar who he is, this was not unknown for returning visitors or indeed for most media. Knowing this does not change the value of what he revealed about Borelius, and his doing this before any traditional media company.
I do agree with Krohnman/Leman that traditional media should have done a better job presenting who Ljungkvist is though. I also believe a critical approach to your sources is vital for anyone doing journalism.
Disclaimer: I was a jury member for the Nyhetspriset award