Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Problem With Some Citizen Journalism

I had thought citizen journalism would be out-of-the-box writing.

Having spent more than 35 years with AP and others, including overseas, I had fought and fought against gate-keepers.

God forbid anything should be original. Put the original material at the bottom so when the news got to its outlets editors there would remove it.

Time after time we were told to include context in stories. When we did it was removed. One editor wrote me up for reporting that the Germany Army had used mustard gas in World War I.

At the same time we were pushed to Murdock journalism. Get quotes from victims of terrible tragedies.

The impact it has on writers is similar to what happens to firefighters or police.

I once asked why I was so often the asked to do it, Columbine for example. Because you are so good at it, I was told.

So when doing so much of this resulted in early retirement due to PTSD and other issues, I was surprised that my psychologist and psychiatrist (both ex-Army lieutenant colonels) urged me to keep writing.

There were plenty of people who wanted me to write. I went in several directions and ultimately was invited to write for Allvoices. It was an organization that claimed was founded to make it possible for people in the Third World and elsewhere to get to tell their story.

I enjoyed it at first because I could put my spin on stories about Afghanistan, Libya and science, art, and history.

After a time it became clear to me that I was merely creating a diversion for their pornography and plagiarism. They couldn’t even get the plagiarism right.

Instead of bringing us stories from their homes that the mainstream media never covered they focused on Charlie Sheen and the likes. Often their writing was incoherent.

There were no editors.

Pornography frequently was the best seller.

There are Websites that include  writing from citizen journalists, but the biggest ones carried old, badly written, disgusting and hoax stories.

Make up your own mind. Google Allvoices and Amra Tareen. Read of the plans they made that never came true.


  1. Allvoices had so much promise. But, apparently it does not have the ability to succeed as a business model.

    What hurts me the most, as a former Allvoices writer, is that the site carries the mantle of "citizen journalism" when they are, in reality a front for soft porn, hard porn, copyright theft and plagiarism. I became friends with many writers there. Some told me that they had to continue to write for the site because they were that desperate for money (the site pays but a pittance). I suppose that is why porno flourishes. People reason that someone will pay for it, so 'why not be the person whom they pay?'

  2. I've always heard that you're known by the company you keep. I've removed all but 3 or 4 of my articles from AV and will soon remove the others.
    You only get one chance to make a good first impression.

  3. From Cathy Taibbi comment: Robert, I totally agree.

    I could put up with not getting paid, getting paid late or getting under paid even by their own guidelines. I could endure the rampant plagiarism and the stupid posts from 'writers' which are literally nothing but a copied photo and a bunch of keyword tags.

    I could endure all that - but, in the end, what I couldn't endure was the blatant porn - including child pornography - and no attempt to lock out underage browsers.

    Worse (as if that's not enough) the management obviously was happy to have the underpaid (or unpaid) writers doubling as more free labor, expecting us to seek out, flag and report porn if we wanted to get it removed! What about their own paid staff? If they were serious about quality it would NEVER be left to the freelance writers to handle that.

    I can't, in good conscience, recommend any writer allow his work to be posted on Allvoices.

    You know what they say - lie down with dogs, wake up with fleas.

  4. Imagine the irony of writing reviews of books and DVDs aimed at preschool children and discovering the site for which you are writing is also publishing kiddie porn. I went to AllVoices because I had heard it was a good place for writers, no censorious editing, no suppression of freedom of speech. Well, that's a double-edged sword, and serious writers are being cut with it.

  5. Inappropriate material can creep into almost any site, but responsible people try to police and remove it. Leaving sleazy ads for brothels on the site and expecting volunteers to search them out and flag it tells me that the management is not serious about cleaning up the site.