Posts Tagged ‘CNN’

The question whether the phenomenon of citizen journalism is an example of the power of an ordinary person to determine the news agenda or as Andrew Keen (2007) puts it, just reflects ‘the cult of the amateur’, is a bit of a complicated one. It gets especially complicated if the citizen journalism project is not founded by an independent non-profit organization such as GlobalVoices but by one of the biggest media networks in the world such as iReport, which is owned by CNN, which in turn is a part of Time Warner. CNN is attempting to profit from the phenomenon of citizen journalism that has its routes in social movements and grassroots journalism, reclaiming the communication commons to represent an alternative news source to corporate mass media.

One of the first successful projects on the internet was the Seattle Independent Media Center. Reporting on the anti-WTO protests in Seattle 1999, the IMC could overcome the limited space and distribution problems inherent in the old media. Independent journalists and amateurs successfully portrayed a different perspective on the protests and the website attracted about 1.5 million hits. Since the foundation of the indymedia network, the internet has seen many open publishing and citizen journalism projects. Many of them are non-profit, independent and offer critical reporting on issues that are overlooked, censored, deemed not newsworthy or portrayed with a political or corporate spin in the mass media.

Infinite monkeys with infinite typewriters eventually create a masterpiece.

But one problem of open-publishing processes without any editorial filtering is that they are open for the self-publishing of the ‘infinite monkey’ as Andrew Keen calls the amateur for whom every posting just another person’s version of the truth is and every fiction just another person’s version of the facts. But whereas Keen sees no value in stories produced by the amateur, CNN apparently does:

‘By submitting your material, […] you hereby grant to CNN and its affiliates a non-exclusive, perpetual, worldwide license to edit, telecast, rerun, reproduce, use, create derivative works from, syndicate, license, print, sublicense, distribute and otherwise exhibit the materials you submit, or any portion thereof in any manner and in any medium or forum, […] without payment to you or any third party’ (click here for the full Terms of Use).

In other words, CNN has created a mechanism where they receive news stories from amateurs which they can use at their disposal to generate revenues. Instead of CNN as a representative of the old media facing extinction as Keen predicts in his book, they embrace the cult of the amateur and make use of it. Question is: Who is the monkey now?

Further readings:

Keen, A 2007, The cult of the amateur, Doubleday, New York.

Kidd, D 2003, ‘ a new communications commons’ in Cyberactivism: online activism in theory and practice, eds M McCaughy & MD Ayers, Routledge, New York & London, pp. 47-69.

Klein, N 2002, Fences and windows: dispatches from the front lines of the globalization debate, Flamingo, London.


As we can read in countless news articles, books and how-to stories on websites such as, Twitter seems to be indispensable for today’s journalists. Indeed it can be a useful tool to manage a journalist’s online identity and self-representation.  As Turkle (1995) put it in his introduction to Life on screen: identity in the age of the Internet, ‘in the real-time communities of cyberspace, we are dwellers on the threshold between the real and the virtual, unsure of footing, inventing ourselves as we go.’ Journalists on Twitter are inventing themselves tweet by tweet, blurring the boundaries between the real, such as an article written and published on a news website and often also in the print edition, and the virtual, the discussion evolving on Twitter between followers that are sharing and responding to the original tweet.

But in today’s media culture, where are the boundaries of self-representation for journalists on Twitter? A growing number of contemporary case studies shows that journalistic self-representation ends where the personal opinion starts. In May 2010, Australian comedian Catherine Deveny has been fired as a columnist for The Age after she sent controversial tweets. Although she defended them as ‘satire’, she had been dropped because  ‘the views she has expressed recently on Twitter are not in keeping with the standards […] at The Age,’ as the Editor-In-Chief explained.

Also CNN’s senior editor for Middle Eastern affairs, Octavia Nasr, has been fired from her job in July this year, after tweeting: ‘Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah … One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot.’ According to CNN, this politically (un)sensitive message  was an ‘error of judgment’ on her part and that the message did not meet CNN’s editorial standards.

To prevent further damage to their reputation, several newspaper such as the Washington Post and news organizations such as Reuters have released guidelines for the use of social media in journalism that heavily limit the personal use of these tools for journalists and consequently limit their online identities to professional identities .

My presentation this week, covering McLuhan’s work The medium is the massage, let to an interesting discussion about how media is shaping us and society in general. Complementing the McLuhan reading was an extract of Bolter & Gruisin’s 1999 book Remediation: Understanding new media, that describes how societies’ contradictory desire for immediacy and hypermediacy demonstrates the double logic of remediation and leads our media environment to adopt to this demand. As Bolter & Gruisin put it, ‘our culture wants both to multiply its media and to erase all traces of mediation.’ Both concepts coexist in today’s digital media environment and are mutually dependent.

A good example of this is CNN’s use of the hologram technique, first used for the election night coverage of the 2008 presidential election in the US. Journalist Jessica Yellin appeared to be projected onto the floor as she was being interviewed in a news show. The technical discussion if this was actually a real hologram or not aside, the use of this technique drew a lot of attention to CNN and delivered an example of the latest form of remediation. As the concept of immediacy expresses, the viewer today does not expect to see a previously recorded message on the news, he wants to see the reporter speaking to the news anchor in real-time or ‘live’. Moreover, the viewer demands more and more hypermediacy. It is not sufficient anymore to have the reporter just filmed on location and being able to speak to the news anchor through a satelite connection. Through the hologram, the journalist or reporter is now virtually present in the studio with the news anchor. This represents the blending of two media types, media is multiplied. At the same time,  the ‘realness’ of the hologram erases the traces of mediation. The CNN hologram reporter is thus a perfect example of the double logic of remediation.

Here is the footage from the election night, using the hologram of Jessica Yellin:

Further Readings:

Bolter, JD & Gruisin, RA 1999, Remediation: Understanding new media, Mass, Cambride, MIT Press, London.