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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Brouhaha over Citizen Newspapers revealed

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On Wednesday, December 20th The Los Angeles Times ran an article on the "new wave of citizen newspapers". The primary focus of the piece, written by Times writer, Mayrav Saar, was none other than this writers favorite online news site. That's right, we are talking BrooWaHa here.
We get to know Ariel Vardi, founder and editor of this site. We even meet his beautiful girlfriend and their unnamed, but well photographed, pooch. There is discussion and revelations as to the whys and the hows Ariel started on this path. All interesting stuff.
But, well, golly gee, it might just be me, but the first two sentences set a tone that maybe this wasn't going to be a really fair discussion of "Citizen Journalism" pros or cons.
Quoting Ms. Saar, "A woman in Venice Beach reviews "The Lion King" and declares it the best musical she's seen--of the four she's ever seen." This 59 year old male had absolutely no interest in seeing a play called "The Lion King". That's something for my grandkids. Then, wow, I read this absolutely great review and "bingo", my daughter is buying tickets for us all.
Why not just say it was a very well written review. What is the importance of making a point of how many musicals the writer had seen? The review was a perfect example of how this is supposed to work. It was no different than a "Times" review, actually it was probably superior.
I have other thoughts about the "merits" and "clarity" of the Los Angeles Times article but will defer to brevity.
What would be great, is some discussion by fellow "committers of journalism" and BrooWaHa readers in response to the article.
So, a call to arms for some solid discussion of this article and your thoughts on "citizen newspapers".

You can find Mayrav Saar's L.A. Times article at:
http://www.latimes.com/technology/la-et-broowaha20dec20,1,4109328.story?ctrack=1&cset=true


About the Writer

Steven Lane is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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14 comments on The Brouhaha over Citizen Newspapers revealed

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By Dan Maier on December 23, 2006 at 10:32 pm
The Times' employed journalist has to paint a not so pretty picture of citizen journalism to promote her industry and protect her job. The article pretty much reads as I expected it to. If anyone is still reading the LAT then the piece may provide for some publicity, although I feel the online version should have at least linked to this site to let the Times' readers decide for themselves. The landscape of journalism is definitely changing. As long as traditional media outlets insist on reporting for profit and not reporting the news, they will inevitably be challenged by new, technology-empowered non-traditional journalists.
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By Deanna Meiresonne on December 24, 2006 at 12:15 am
There are some points brought up in the LA Times article that seem to be a trend amongst newsprint journalists, and they're well founded: the risk with online blogging, articles, or reviews is that "the news" isn't properly researched, and is rarely presented with an objective view. While I do have to agree with this on some points, I think that using BrooWaha.com has an example only shows her own for research. One of the points (at least, as far as I have found) of BrooWaha.com is that is a website profiling a city by the very people who live in it. So of course you're going to get your "average joes" and a few opinionated reviews...it's what makes this website so personal. Believe me, people get personal about where they live, it stands for what they stand for, and their choices. Sometimes with newspapers like LA Times we don't always get that personal edge, like you're gossiping over the fence with a neighbor...
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By V on December 24, 2006 at 03:06 am
I have noticed a distinct correlation between older journalists in particular and a resistance to acknowledging the growing advent of citizen journalism. When I say them not 'acknowledging,' I don't mean their denial of its existence, but their often stubborn and all encompassing lack of recognition of its value or validity. I suppose you can't blame them, when you have been trained for your profession in a particular way and have spent an entire career honing your craft within accepted and time-tested parameters, it can be hard to find the flexibility of mind to accept changing technologies and ideas. This is true of many professions, but perhaps more so this quite traditional one in particular. I have watched the big newspaper from back in my home country, undergo an essential metamorphosis in order to compete with more easily accessible and particularly popular among the younger generations, on-line information resources. Essentially, that's what newspapers do, disseminate information. This paper has (in a way that comes across as the dorky, uncool guy trying desperately to be cool) added a 'Sex in the City' styled blog. Over recent years, they have embarked upon many such crossover media endeavors in a desperate bid to compete, and appear to be 'young' and in keeping with the times. Although they haven't yet got it right, it is at least a step in the right direction. I tend to agree with Deanna Meirsonne, that the Broowaha (which by the way, I pay my highest respects to Ariel for, for building and maintaining a platform that, in its short lifespan is growing beautifully) offers a more personalized angle to a news format. As Dan Maier said, the landscape of journalism IS changing. And I for one think that the advent of citizen journalism allows us options of a view into people's worlds which are also our world. Through the many eyes and ears out there, all these citizens delving into their worlds, communicating their observations and local news, we are offered alternative sources of information and inspiration. It is very true that as untrained writers, we can inadvertently drop the ball with spelling and grammar and not always check facts - and this needs to be addressed if to further establish a credible name for ourselves. But overall, I think most of us do a fine job here and the BrooWaha most certainly does a brilliant job of allowing us a fantastic platform. The LA Times article definitely had a harsh lean on citizen journalism - but as I mentioned earlier, what can you expect from a traditional, old-school monster newspaper? And Joseph Mael was right, perhaps if better research were done - one of the downfalls apparently of all us 'citizen journos' - some of us contributors would have been contacted for our opinions. Keep watching the BrooWaha, it has a long and fruitful life ahead of it.
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By Josh Marks on December 24, 2006 at 05:01 am
I was actually interviewed for the L.A Times article as a contributor as well as another writer for the site. Neither of our comments were included in the article. I thought while it was great publicity for BrooWaha and citizen journalism is an important and it was a timely article to write about, overall it was way too negative. There wasn't enough context as to WHY this movement is taking place in the first place -- namely that "traditional media" outlets such as the L.A. Times are not doing a great job covering local community news and issues. I believe that while there is alot of mediocre and suspect articles written on sites like BrooWaha, they are no more trustworthy than many articles in the L.A Times or other publications and in fact there is some really interesting content being posted to BrooWaha and other sites that wouldn't have made it past the editors at some of the more traditional news outlets. I have to say I am really disappointed by the L.A. Times piece and I know Ariel agrees with me. I guess any publicity is good publicity and if it brings in more writers and readers than I guess it was a good thing. I just wish it would have had a more positive angle with more context as to why people are taking journalism into their own hands rather than relying on papers like the L.A. Times. It is a debate that needs to be happen and a healthy one at that, as the future of journalism itself is at stake.
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By J. Hoods on December 24, 2006 at 12:16 pm
This article did have a negative tone to this site and every other site like it. I guess it was to be expected, most of us are amatures that are trying to write news stories for an online website and yeah, some of them rely heavy on opinion and not so much just stating the facts. And it's true that the facts may not all be checked out or missed, but that the risk any article takes I would imagine. I think it was a bit unfair to try to make us come off as something that is trying to report news like a professional journalist would. The beauty of this website, well, in my opinion anyway, is that it's not a bunch of professional journalist trying to give the news. We are people from Los Angeles trying to write about what is interesting to Los Angeles from a "citizen's" point of view. Of course not all of our articles are good. I know my last article wasn't that great of an article for it was all opinions. I think this article could of been done in a way that didn't have to be so negative, and it just blows my mind that the L.A. Times chose this route. I could of sworn a good reporter was suppose to shed some light on all the aspects of a subject, not just drive one point and push it in thier reader's faces. And they calls us opinionated.
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By AM Nelson on December 24, 2006 at 04:08 pm
I don't think you can buy better press than the LA Times article. I'm glad Steven Lane brought it to our attention here on BrooWaHa. Community building is becoming ever more difficult in our individualist society...online citizen newspapers help build community and distribute information that otherwise would not be noticed. I enjoy the site--the casual yet informative style, combined with writing quality, create a paper that is well above the mark of other similiar papers. The paper offers an opportunity to view information in novel ways, slants, twists...in ways that networks and corporations cannot risk due to their political and profitability limitations. Outside the Library Ale House, in Santa Monica, what did I see slapped on the payphone? A BrooWaHa sticker...made me laugh out loud. Community building.
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By Hassassin on December 24, 2006 at 06:06 pm
I was interviewed for this article as well (along with Josh Marks). I found my comments were replaced by a professor of journalism, even though I had offered very similar comments. The premise and execution of the article was so laden with irony; it reinforces the need for a site like this.
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By Ariel on December 24, 2006 at 10:28 pm
As Dan Maier said, the tone of the article was to be expected. They did a great job finding our flaws, and an equally great job ignoring most of our strengths. We still have to thank the LA Times and Mayrav Saar for giving us the exposure we got with this article. I know for a fact that Mayrav is very excited about BrooWaha and citizen journalism in general. And the end of the LAT article actually shows a lot of hope in this new trend. We have to take into account our weaknesses and reinforce our strengths. Yes they are right, most of us are not professional journalists, and our writing may not always be as good as theirs. But hey, we are engineers, musicians, teachers, actors, students, lawyers, doctors ... And guess what? They are not. We have this knowledge and experience in certain fields that they don't have, and we can share it with BrooWaha's readers. That's very valuable. Dan Maier for instance did a great job with his article Flotsam And Jetsam using his professional background. The example of Joe's article on pickup basketball is another good example of what we citizens can bring to journalism: a thorough knowledge of the culture and subculture of the city that again professional journalists don't necessarily have. This is true for sports, but also for concerts, urban fashion, etc... Everything that goes under the traditional medias' radars but that is still very important to us. And finally, we see everything with our collective eyes, and they don't. The taser incident at UCLA is a great illustration of this. There has been some great articles on BrooWaha and it's just the beginning. The quality of the articles has significantly improved since its start in early September, and it will improve more (I will provide the tools to achieve that). Your articles are read daily by people around the world, they find your articles on Google, link them on their blogs, etc... You are undeniably producing some very valuable content. We have a lot to learn from professional journalists, but they have a lot to learn from us too. The LA Times will realize this soon if that's not already done, and they will embrace this new wave instead of trying to diminish its value.
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By Ariel on December 24, 2006 at 10:31 pm
Oh, and my dog's name is Mooky and she's a Havanese Bichon ;-) Joe, the stickers, shirts, etc can be purchased from www.cafepress.com/broowaha There are also buttons that you can add on your blog, check out the "Support us" link at the bottom of this page.
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By Steven Lane on December 25, 2006 at 10:03 pm
Wow, what a great response. I truly hope that the Times and others get a taste of this. You guys have pretty much touched all the bases, but, I do have to comment on one thing. How dumb was it to NOT include the interviews with Josh Marks, and Hassassin after going to the trouble to get "real" opinions by two active Broowaha writers. That seemed very self serving by the Times staff. I am not sure if everyone is aware of the problems The Times and other major newspapers are facing in these internet times. Let me give you a few current facts about "The L A Times". By Frank Ahrens Washington Post Staff Writer Tuesday, October 31, 2006; Page D03 The Los Angeles Times lost 8 percent of its daily circulation -- the most of any of the nation's largest newspapers -- over the past six months, potentially lowering its value even as suitors line up to bid on its parent company...................................................... Political Fan: The semi-lucid ramblings of an expatriot Texan and "my 2 cents" on politics and issues of the day. Monday, October 30, 2006 LA Times Drops 26.8% in circulation in Three Years The circulation of the LA Times dropped an additional 8.9% in the last six months, and announced a circulation of 775,766. Now with changes in top management positions, the LA Times continues its decline into the birdcage bottom of history. Political Fan detailed earlier circulation declines of 17.9% in a two year span. These latest totals represents a 26.8% decline in circulation in the last three years of reporting. To place this in perspective, the circulation in March 2005 dropped 6.5% to 907.997. In May 2006 the circulation was noted to have dropped an additional 5.4% to 851,832 during the previous 6 months. The bottom line is that the LA Times continues to free fall in circulation and they apparently have no idea on how to stop the descent. Until the legacy media at the Times and other locations can recognize their bias and provide a balanced product, they will be unable to stop the sinking ship. Look for another article in this blog six months from now that outlines another 6-10% drop.................................... I may not be the smartest rock in the gravel pit, but, I do know if I was selling Ford cars, I am not about to tell you that Chevy is coming out with a brand new exciting car. Nope, I'm just wouldn't do that and neither did the Times. Final word: Just like Josh Marks and AM Nelson allude to in their comments there is no such thing as "bad publicity", especially in a "start up" venture. That article was in over 750,000 newspapers. Good job Ariel, keep it up!
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By Katy Chen on December 27, 2006 at 02:31 pm
I agree that it's a shame that the contributors' remarks were not included in this LA Times article. I am actually a professional journalist (mostly broadcast) and TV producer, and I think that Brouhaha and other citizen newspapers are extremely important. It gives the people a voice, and that's what journalism and the first amendment are supposed to do. It also gives professional journalists an outlet to write about subjects their editors may never assign them. I do agree with the article that spelling, grammar, etc. should be taken into account. It's hard to read when they're are a lot of mistakes, and it seems like the articles did not get a lot of attention and thought. I try to have at least one other person look over my article for mistakes. Sometimes I catch them, sometimes I don't, but I do try. I also agree that opinions should be limited...to editorials and reviews. This isn't a personal blog. But I think it's very exciting that Brouhaha is getting more attention! Congrats, Ariel.
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By Alethea on January 07, 2007 at 05:50 pm
So I've finally gotten around to reading this LA Times article that has been buzzing. Needless to say I'm disappointed about the attitude of the reporter, and the disapproving underlying tones are quite clear to me. She criticized Broowaha for having too much of a surplus of opinion articles, and yet, her article was riddled with so much subtle negative opinion of her own. I'm not sure who she interviewed that would show a majority of us writers do this for kicks and not a sense of interest in our desired subject matter. But overall, I feel that her article pokes fun at this site and its writers. Although she did have some important points about the editing and other technical errors, I believe those are kinks that will eventually be worked out. If public journalism was such a moot idea, I don't think this website would be gaining the popularity that it has been.
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By Lindsay Katai on June 29, 2008 at 02:21 am

I thought Saar did an excellent job of balancing the pitfalls and perks to user-generated news sites.  I didn't find the article to be negative in tone, I think it was merely highlighting the particular quirks one is liable to find in such sites.  One can read an excellent review of the Lion King and be compelled to see the show, but know that it doesn't come from one who is knowledgable in theatre.  It seemed a perfect illustration of what one comes to find here.  And Saar is right - there is an especial influx of opinion articles and a lack in just plain reporting.  Also, Saar ended the article with a generally hopeful and excited tone about what it means for the future of journalism.  I don't think that because the article wasn't an out-and-out praising of BrooWaha is any reason not to see it as being very balanced, positive attention for the site.

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By Lindsay Katai on June 29, 2008 at 02:22 am

Also, clearly I am joining this party very late indeed.

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