Who is a journalist?

When I was eight, I won first prize in my school districts Girl Scout bake off. Obviously, I am a gourmet baker. I have a ribbon and a picture with the town councilman to prove it.

Janis Krums was riding the ferry on January 15, 2009 and fortuitously got the first picture of the Miracle on the Hudson. He didn’t get a ribbon; he got $40,000. By the same logic, he is a journalist.

But is he really?  I say no, and I am really no baker either.   We are just two individuals who got really lucky.

Krums is part of a new breed: the citizen journalist. He’s your Average Joe with a camera on the street; no journalism degree, but an active Twitter account.

There is value in ordinary citizens sharing news as they see it happen. The public needs to be informed. In fact, the Online Journalism Review says it’s the way of the future.

But Krums isn’t a professional. His photograph doesn’t even get the whole plane in the frame. But he was first. Citizen journalism will exacerbate the idea that it’s best to be first, regardless of the quality or truth of your work.

If you wouldn’t hire me to bake your wedding cake, why would you trust Krums to report on the state of the world?


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