Skip to content →

Citizen Journalists, you are now ‘witness contributors’

The (UK) National Union of Journalists have published a code of conduct for Citizen Journalists based on a roundtable debate they had with:

  • Jeremy Dear, General Secretary, NUJ,
  • Carol Hall, Rights Manager, BBC News
  • Kyle McRae,
  • Fiona Brownsell, CEO, Youview
  • Eddie Gibb, Head of External Relations, DEMOS
  • Bill Hagerty, Editor, British Journalism Review
  • Vicky Taylor, Editor, Interactive, BBC
  • Jemima Kiss and John Thompson
  • Simon Waldman, Guardian Unlimited

Now I should point out that, as always, the views on my blog are my own and not those of my employer – especially as representatives from my employer were part of the debate.

For starters, the NUJ have renamed Citizen Journalists to ‘witness contributors’. Presumably you need to pay your subs to the NUJ in order to call yourself anything with the ‘J-word’ in. Another example of a late-comer to the party thinking they can waltz in and change the music playing that the rest of us are listening to cos they just don’t like it.

Obscure analogies aside, witness contributors – that’s just awful.

But from just reading the NUJ’s blurb on ‘The Code’, you can tell it’s going to be totally backwards:

The Code addresses … issues and sets down ways in which organisations and individuals can maintain the highest professional and ethical standards in the new media environment.

Well first of all, isn’t it pretty rich to hand out a code to ‘individuals’ to help them ensure they maintain professional standards, yet they are denied the acknowledgment to call themselves the professional title of journalist (albeit citizen journalist)?

That aside, we can see that the code is first-and-fore-most to help ensure organisations can maintain their standards.

Well, the first point I have always made is “just why do organisations think that Citizen Journalism is for their benefit”? They might get some use out of it, and that’s fine. But I doubt many Citizen Journalists are putting their efforts into what they produce with the view to how the BBC or Gurdian will use their material.

Most Citizen Journalists do what they do for the benefit of other citizens. And whilst no one would deny that we should all be striving for accuracy and impartiality, to put out a code that pushes CJ’s to maintain a professional and ethical standard for the benefit of organisations just seems offensive to me.

There many concerning points in the code, including those around paying CJ’s for their work (even when, as is often the case, payment is unrequested). This point is concerning because it will preclude the inclusion of CJ material in an article where the nessessary budget is unavailable.

Having read alarming aspects of the code like this, if I didn’t know the calibre and background of the people on the panel I would think that they are trying to snub Citizen Journalism out, rather than trying to help support it.

Neil McIntosh, a journalist and disgruntled member of the NUJ picks up the baton and eloquently explains his beef at a level I couldn’t possible wish to achieve here.

If you want to check out the code for yourself, you can download The Code here (Word).

Published in News


  1. Ben Ben

    Thanks for the link, Nick.

    Emily makes her point well, and I hope will ensure that this crazy code isn’t adopted by The Guardian.

    Now, as for the BBC…

Comments are closed.