Forum to analyze citizen, professional journalism in age of Internet

March 29, 2010 | Arts, Events, Research, UToday
By Vicki L. Kroll

“A Nation of Watchdogs: Citizen Journalists and Traditional Journalists” will be discussed at the 11th Annual First Amendment Freedom Forum, which will take place Thursday, April 1, at 7 p.m. in The University of Toledo’s Law Center Auditorium.

“Cell phones, Twitter, Facebook and cheap video cameras have empowered ordinary people to serve as journalists, who record history as it occurs and then share it with the public,” said Dr. Paulette D. Kilmer, UT professor of communication, who helped organize the event. “Citizens mean well, but they often lack training in journalism and do not check facts, worry about distortion, or dedicate their professional life to serving the public.

“Sometimes, these folks get the message right and offer invaluable eyewitness accounts, but as the lines blur between citizen and traditional journalism, the public is often challenged to determine whom to believe.”

Scheduled to be panelists for the forum are Michael S. Miller, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Toledo Free Press; Lisa Renee Ward, Toledo blogger (Glass City Jungle) and champion of citizen journalism, and Maggie Thurber, communication consulting firm owner, former public official and blogger (Thurber’s Thoughts). Joe Griffith, editor-in-chief of The Independent Collegian, will serve as the moderator.

“The human inclination to seek ‘news’ to support personal opinions that bloggers also champion could result in a nation of misinformed people ill-prepared to participate in democracy. Democracy cannot exist without an informed citizenry,” Kilmer said. “The press plays a watchdog role to prevent the government, big business or any other power broker from taking advantage of public resources or denying anyone constitutional rights.”

She was quick to add that the battle for the First Amendment is an ongoing fight.

“The battle for the First Amendment is never over partly because polarizing public opinion eliminates respect for diverse ideas,” Kilmer said. “Just the other day, The New York Times reported that Google stopped service in mainland China because the government was censoring sites. China has banned Facebook, Twitter and YouTube hoping to control citizen ‘news’ from China to the rest of the world.”

For more information on the free, public forum, contact Kilmer at or 419.530.4672.

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