Users, Twits and Cameramen Under Fire

November 16, 2008

Three recent articles/blog posts which I thought had something in common.

1. This amusing attack on media twitterers from the Register, including a little unfairly, Rory Cellan Jones who is a very nice man, a shrewd BBC journalist and someone who has helped me at work.

But the more of themselves media people reveal, the more the public sees them as clueless, self-referential and narcissistic bunch so many of them are. And the more time the BBC spends on peripheral New Media wankery, the more people wonder why they’re paying a licence fee

2. Tom Scott on the money as always politely but firmly refuting the concept of “User Generated Content”.

As I sit here writing this post am I a user? If I am I have no idea what I’m using other than WordPress, and if I am then so must journalists be users of their CMS. I know one thing for sure, I don’t think of myself as a user of someone’s site and I don’t create content for them

3.This story from the Guardian.

I have been shot more times than I have been credited by the BBC,” he said. “In fact, I was shot once while filming with the BBC. The shooting, of course, made up a significant part of the news report. I was referred to as ‘our cameraman’, as if I was some damaged bit of equipment.”

He added: “We are all journalists who strive to be fair and accurate; it’s not an exclusive club. We are not second-class journalists because we choose to fund our own journalism.”

The idea that only a professional class of elite creatives can make content is looking shaky. And so is the notion that everyone else is either anonymously servicing their needs (like a cameraman) or just a passive “user” who might try and make something but could never come up to their high standards.

If this was ever true it’s less and less true now.

Now everyone can be creative. Not unreasonably they are asking both to be visible and to get credit (even if they don’t get paid) and respect.

I’ve always intensely disliked the phrase “user generated content”. For a start “user” always seems to suggest a drug addict. And in my cynical experience “UGC” is a phrase only used by media executives who use it for reassurance when they’ve never made any web content or participated in anything themselves.

We don’t think less of Olympic athletes just because they are amateurs.

Andrew Orlowski is right that media types can too easily get trapped in navel gazing.

It’s easy to dismiss social media as something that has no impact outside the media itself. The media probably do over estimate the importance of social media, and they certainly over estimate their own importance.

But this doesn’t mean that twitter is pointless. Simply that the media types who use it should get out more (or get more “friends” outside their usual groups).

But in a world where a couple got divorced because of something that happened in second life, there’s definitely something happening (the people involved are not digital media execs or Nathan Barleys).

Look beyond the tools at the human behaviour. People have desires and dream of perfect versions of themselves. People are driven by beliefs and ideals. If they are doing something they and the world sees as worthwhile, they should be given respect, not dismissed.


2 Responses to “Users, Twits and Cameramen Under Fire”

  1. Andrew Orlowski also appears to believe that whatever we (BBC employees) do in our spare time is somehow “your licence fee at work”.

    I’m proud therefore to tell him that his licence fee has mostly been spent today eating some pickled eggs I found in the cupboard. New media wankery enough, d’you reckon?

  2. […] Users, Twits and Cameramen Under Fire [Nick Reynolds At Work] Wise words from Nick – who continues the good fight in the war to kill of the UGC term. It is such a rude and self limiting term. […]

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