The Toronto Star has a very silly and rambling opinion piece about the recent Canadian federal government's cabinet shuffle, and how it is "an opportunity for a policy reset in support of ‘civic journalism’."
Here we go again.
Civic journalism has been a failure and hasn't actually supplanted traditional journalism -- or ever will. We can even take last night's shooting in Toronto as proof that both traditional journalism and civic journalism did anything real to inform the public about the basics of that out in the open carnage.
Legacy journalism has refused to make changes, but civic journalism is no better, and in mindset, is even worse. There is an inherent assumption that it's wonderful because it has an amateur status. It is the difference between a trained artist and an autodidactic maker. When I used to teach metalworking, the students who had no experience made far fewer errors and progressed more than the ones who fiddled on their own beforehand: the fiddlers thought they had experience and their mistakes were part of the design that made it "unique." Their mistakes caused repeatedly breakage and the design flaws were impeding their progress because they thought they needed no instruction because they tinkered on their own first, and I was just trying to stifle creativity and take away their "hacks".
But then got sulky when the novices had pieces that looked better and were sturdier.
No, solder is not a filler. Yes, you have to file your piece in a single direction. No, you have to hold your hammer at the bottom before you strike. Yes, you have to thoroughly clean your metal before you enamel it.
Yet I saw this phenomenon happen with civic journalism.
About a decade ago, I approached Niagara College (where I would teach the metalworking a couple of years later) with a proposal to inject their current journalism program with the kinds of skills journalists would need in the changing landscape, such as information verification and the like. I sent my course proposals, but hadn't counted on them to take all of those courses and put them under a Civic Journalism banner.
This was not a good idea. I knew what would happen: people who wear that DIY paper crown have less experience, but are convinced they know more, and make the same mistakes, only more of it and more pronounced.
No one signed up for the classes in both semesters they were offered, and I was not surprised.
Civic journalism, is not a thing. There is no research or theories, and after over a decade of it being around, it hasn't gained any traction.
For a reason.
If the traditional outlets aren't being innovative to their own detriment, civic journalism is following the same destructive path. At least organized journalism used to be a thing. Civic journalism, by contrast, is just amateur spewing without the polish or legacy. We don't have civic journalist greats who made waves or changed anything.
So the poor man's version is just as problematic as the gold standard.
So why should the government fund or support either?
And while we are on the subject, why should we expect the government to fund any journalism? If they control the purse strings, they get a say on how it is done, and the point is to keep a watch over them without a conflict of interest.
You don't accept graft, gifts, or junkets from organizations because it will change the filters you use to see them -- and it's why it was always used.
The government has no place in journalism.
So stop trying to shake them down.
It is the reason we don't need either one.
But we do need an alternative to it. One that has discipline and true empirical methodology.
Not the mess both parties have given with the expectation that they are now absolutely necessary for the survival of mankind....