October 29, 2008

Citizen Journalist Workshop

I just called the Kentucky Press Association to find out if the Citizen Journalist Workshop they're sponsoring still has openings. Wooo hoooo! They do. I am so there. They're got a full slate for the day, including sessions on basic writing and reporting for blogs, filming, and a Q&A with press professionals.

I'm interested in the concept of citizen journalists.
According to Wikipedia, New York University professor Jay Rosen refers to them as "the people formerly known as the audience." Over at Poynter Online, a June 15, 2005, article sets forth 11 ways in which citizen journalism is being conducted.

I mostly write creative nonfiction. In my field, conversations are raging around the question of what constitutes nonfiction. (The argument started even before the James Frey fiasco, in which he presented fact as fiction in a book; the downside was that people said mean things about him; the upside was that he got to go on Oprah twice -- the second time so she could let him know how disappointed she was at his deception. As a result his sales figures skyrocketed.)

Historically, I'm a hard-liner. If you're making that junk up, call it fiction. Call it historical fiction. Call it quasi-nonfiction. Call it stew if you want to. Just don't try to manipulate readers into believing you yourself personally experienced something when you know that you're lying. Do you lie like that to your mom? To your best friend? If not, then why would you lie to me? And if you do lie to your mom and best friend, I don't want to read what your lying butt is writing in the first place. But that's just my opinion, and in rebuttal you'll often find Truman Capote's In Cold Blood on recommended reading lists in creative nonfiction programs. (The proper category is nonfiction novel.)

Back to citizen journalism. It boils down to the fact that ordinary people/regular folks can now publish whatever they want to by pushing a button. It's like discovering fire -- or at least movable type -- all over again. So I think it's a great topic. And I don't want to brag, but let's be realistic. How much would you know about the zombie invasion in Louisville without me?

The workshop is November 13 from 9 until 4 at the Paroquet Springs Conference Centre in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. Fee: $39.00. Call 502.223.8821 for more info.

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