Jeff Jarvis and Michael Tomansky recently debated whether the Internet's new breed of citizen journalists should have the responsibilities of journalists or the rights of citizens. [hat tip to Robin Hamman] Jay Rosen himself participates to the conversation. I think this kind of debate is good to have to promote awareness of the issues and potential conflicts of interest we may bump into.
More and more we find our roles overlap - blogger, employee, stockholder, customer, etc. Do the rules of engagement overlap? Where do we stand on ethics and responsibility? My hunch is that at this stage it is a personal question we ask ourselves. Certainly there are always consequences to how we answer it. Let's start with a definition of citizen journalist. Directly from Wikipedia:
Citizen journalism, also known as public or participatory journalism, is the act of citizens "playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information," according to the seminal report We Media: How Audiences are Shaping the Future of News and Information, by Shayne Bowman and Chris Willis. They say, "The intent of this participation is to provide independent, reliable, accurate, wide-ranging and relevant information that a democracy requires."
Does citizen journalist equal blogger? In some instances it might. We call people who help spread the word on companies and their products Citizen Marketers and we call people who help disseminate and discuss the news Citizen Journalists. In both cases, people are the message. Here's what happens when we are the message, though - it is up to you to figure out where your responsibility falls.
As Andrew Tyndall says in the comments to Jarvis' post:
In an instance when one is invited to listen to something that is private and is told that it is so, surely one is bound not to repeat it, however newsworthy it might happen to be, and being a journalist — or calling oneself a journalist — is no license to violate that understanding and make such speech public.
That point does not fall under “rules for bloggers.” It falls under rules for human beings.