Another topic that came up at Sunday’s Commie J-School, mostly as people introduced themselves, was that of the roles and labels we choose for ourselves. “Advocacy journalist,” “citizen journalist” and “citizen reporter” are some of those used. A major network reporter once derisively called us “iPhone journalists,” a term I find quite apt and endearing.
For the first time ever, the tools to report facts, opinions and analysis using print, video, photography and graphic art, both recorded and live, are in the hands of virtually anyone with a modest income. This is revolutionary and is an integral part of both the open, transparent character of Occupy and a harbinger of the emerging hyper-networked democratic society. The means prefigure the ends.
After some thought, I’ve decided that “participant reporter” suits me best because I actively do both. For example, I was at Sunday’s Occupy Oakland General Assembly where I voted yes for Occupy Oakland to support the Golden Gate Bridge workers’ call to shut down the bridge on May 1st if their contract negotiations break down. The point is not how I voted (it was nearly unanimous, by the way), but that I was an active participant in the process that I’ll be reporting about on May 1st. While I won’t be blockading (e.g. chaining myself down or doing a sit-in or carrying a sign), I will do my best to get up to where the best story is, even if it means trespassing or defying police orders to disperse. I’ll willingly risk arrest or tear gassing to get the story out that I think needs to be told.
Anyone who follows me on Twitter, this blog or other social media knows that I strive to be as factually correct as possible even while my stories are unmistakably infused with opinion, analysis and critique of anything or anyone that catches my interest. I’m often more critical of, for example, negative behavior of Occupiers than negative behavior of cops.
Critiquing and pointing out police misconduct or abuse is a bit too easy and everyone else is doing it already, so I feel it’s covered. Not to mention kinda predictable.
I know that one of the topics of future CJS get togethers will be how we define ourselves to the world (and to authorities) with regards to our rights as journalists/reporters/whatevers, even though most of us aren’t journalists in any traditional sense and many of us, like me, are clearly also participants. Reporting is my main form of participation these days. Does that give me any special reason to not be arrested if I’m at a demonstration and feel I need to be somewhere to video or livestream the event despite police orders to leave? It’s a constantly evolving topic now that the means to report live to a worldwide audience are in everyone’s hands.