“It goes back to the days of country correspondents or stringers. They are limited in what they can do, and newspapers have never been very good about training those people. ... I have seen some horrendous mistakes made by people who don’t know what they are doing."
I think the real problem is that journalists (and journalism professors) keep pounding a square peg into a round hole and then complaining about the fit.
People in general are not clamoring to become amateur journalists. Publishers: Chill out. This is not a way for you to get free labor, cut the newsroom staff, and preserve your margins.
That's not the point.
People want to participate in a community conversation. We can build a separate and new business model around facilitation of that online conversation.
That conversation is good for traditional journalism because it builds social capital -- connections, roots -- and interest in local civic life.
And by becoming participative listeners in those online conversations, our professional reporters can get a deeper insight into the community, a better read on what people think is important. They can collect leads, practical tips on stories that need to be pursued. They can do a better job.
And they can put a more human face on the journalism process, helping repair the newspaper brand.
We need to stop confusing ourselves about participative media. Yes, there is significant overlap between the social functions of traditional journalism and the social functions of partitipative media and community conversation. But they are not the same thing, they are not replacements for one another, and we should all stop the sniping from the respective camps.