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July 2, 2019updated 30 Sep 2022 8:00am

Put ‘health warnings’ on content from citizen journalists, says Sky reporter

By James Walker

Content supplied by so-called citizen journalists should come with “hefty health warnings”, according to a Sky News reporter who has also called on the press to defend each other against accusations of bias.

Special correspondent Alex Crawford (pictured) has used a blog post to warn the news industry is “under assault like never before” and perhaps most damagingly from “the public masquerading as journalists”.

Writing for the National Council for the Training of Journalists, of which she is a patron, Crawford added: “We, as an industry, need to take on the ‘citizen-journalists’.

“They perhaps do have a role, but their contributions need to be accompanied by hefty ‘health warnings’.

“”I am not sure the way to preserve journalism is to fudge, blur and muddy the waters between those trained with solid backgrounds in journalism and those who are just citizens with cameras.”

Crawford suggested there should be a “clear acknowledgment” that civilians or activists are not journalists and their content “hasn’t gone through the same rigorous filters as an independent piece from a trained journalist”.

She went on: “Because if we are saying anyone out in the field in a difficult spot can produce the same quality material as a trained journalist, then what is the point of training at all…”

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To this end Crawford urged editors to be “discriminating in their commissioning”.

She said “constant sniping” from politicians and others about journalists’ independence “only gives succour” to trolls and propagandists .

Crawford, who became the first patron of the National Council for the Training of Journalists in October last year, also used her blog to urge journalists not to turn on each other.

“Journalism is being eroded before our eyes and journalists seem incapable of standing together and defending it and each other,” she said.

“Are we so bent on getting one over on each other that we’re losing sight of the real ball? Our problem should not be other journalists. It should be the malignant forces out there bent on destroying the truth-getters and independent-thinkers.

“The competition now is not whether ITN has managed to get an exclusive that BBC doesn’t have or Sky has got somewhere and found out something that Channel Four hasn’t. It’s convincing the wider public we’re worth listening to and paying heed to at all.

“That task involves some – wait for it – collaboration in fighting these malevolent forces. And maybe, just maybe, that collaboration involves collectively defending fellow journalists against unfair, unjust, outrageous accusations of bias, dishonesty and wrong-doing.

“We can’t be turning on each other. This is not the way to defend and protect the pillars of good journalism.”

Crawford was one of the Sky News journalists “deliberately targeted” by the Syrian regime while reporting on the battle for the latest rebel outpost in Idlib province and clearly identifiable as press.

Picture: Sky News

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