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Citizen Journalism in Egypt: You Get What You Pay For

April 2, 2011

Lisa Goldman's April 2 blog post from Egypt on a trip funded by her readers.

Perhaps what Lisa Goldman is doing is not technically “citizen journalism”. But the idea of reader-supported freelance journalism fascinates me too much not to comment.

In India, where I was doing research on news media cultures in 2008, citizen journalism referred pretty exclusively to individual citizens who’d captured newsworthy stuff on video or other media and posted it to a citizen news blog or, more often, turned it in to local professional news media.

In much of the rest of the world, unlike India, the professional news media is in serious decline, and the relationship between professional journalism and citizen journalism is increasingly tenuous. Lisa Goldman has great credentials; according to her bio blurb she was born in Canada, lived and studied in New York for a decade, then moved to Jaffa, Israel in 2000. She’s been blogging since 2004, and she says her

articles for the mainstream press have been published in the Guardian Newsblog, Forward, Time Out Tel Aviv, Ynet, the Columbia Journalism Review and Haaretz, amongst other publications. In 2009 I was awarded the Anna Lindh journalism prize for ‘Covering Gaza from Israel,’ which was published in the Columbia Journalism Review.

But Lisa Goldman mostly blogs for a self-supported, volunteer on-line magazine/blog called +972, which offers as its purpose “independent reporting and commentary from Israel and the Palestinian territories.”

When the revolution occurred, Ms. Goldman desperately wanted to be there reporting. Alas, blogs like +972 have no resources. So on March 7, she posted an account of her first trip to Cairo, and asked people to donate funds for her to travel back to Cairo and blog about what she found, a practice she called “crowd-sourced funding.” By March 15, some 57 contributors had donated more than $3,000, and Ms. Goldman headed to Cairo. She arrived in time for the March 19 referendum. Since then, she has blogged about voting, open political discussion, and interviewed a young Al-Akhbar journalist.

The Egyptian uprisings have demonstrated many of the ways that social media can sidestep mainstream media. Here is another, this kind of reader-supported independent journalism. It adds a whole new meaning to the term, “You get what you pay for.”

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