Much of the debate over citizen journalism so far has focused on whether we can trust people who are not "professional" journalists to give us the news we need to be free and self-governing. Here are eight reasons why I say the answer is "Yes, we can trust them, at least as much as professionals:"
1. Because there are sets of communication skills that have evolved over time to ensure the accuracy and fairness of public reports, which skills are by no means beyond the capacity of ordinary people to understand and to master;
2. Because putting journalism solely in the hands of a professional elite by definition, and by the example of actual history, divorces journalism from its primary purpose which is to serve everyone in society equally;
3. Because our form of government, which views freedom of speech as a foundation of democracy, demands it;
4. Because freedom of the press as enshrined in the U.S. Constitution applies equally to all people, including those who are professionally trained and sanctioned communicators and those who are not;
5. Because there are indeed certain kinds of skills required to create efficient and responsible journalism for a mass audience, such as computer and technological skills and some higher-level communication skills, which could be called "professional" skills in a loose sense, not referring to journalism as a practice in need of social licensing; and that in the form of journalism as we envision it, amateurs and professionals would work together to make this "citizen journalism;"
6. Because the national experiment in graduate journalism training programs has effectively eroded journalism's critical place in our democracy instead of strengthening it, and has weakened the vibrancy and integrity of journalistic writing as surely as graduate programs in fiction writing and poetry have debilitated those verbal arts;
7. Because all human experiments in imposing strong government or social controls on the press, such as by censorship or according special filtering privileges to elite "professional" journalists, have been utterly calamitous to individual people and to society;
8. Because human communication through public language is a practice that is so deeply ingrained in human nature, indeed is virtually co-equal with human culture itself, that attempting to limit its practice to an elite few is from a common-sense standpoint simply a waste of effort and doomed to fail.