The Real Mother Jones Crowdsourcing News is the Rise of Advocacy Journalism

Crowdsourcing news from citizen journalists is so old-hat now that talking about it is boring. It’s still not easy to do, or efficiently done, but it’s been discussed so often that it’s become a cliche. Mother Jones, though, is crowdsourcing with a twist – the publication is using professional journalists. MoJo has decided that “climate change is the most important story of our time,” but is being covered “piecemeal” and therefore ineffectively. To rectify that problem, it’s “forging a collaboration with a range of news organizations—magazines, online news sites, nonprofit reporting shops, multimedia operations—because we each have different strengths, but working together we can cover this story better than any of us could on our own.” This initiative has resulted in some good press about this new kind of crowdsourcing. But I think focusing on professional crowdsourcing misses the really interesting aspect of the move – it’s more evidence of the rise of advocacy journalism.

Mother Jones is known for advocacy journalism, but it’s partners in this effort (with more, presumably, to come) really aren’t. Editor Clara Jeffery stated in the Ad Age story that participants “will likely include Slate, Grist, The Atlantic, Wired, Pro Publica, the Center for Investigative Reporting, MoJo of course, and maybe one or two others.” The audience for news seems to be clamoring for this kind of journalism, as evidenced by high viewership for Fox News and MSNBC, while ratings for CNN and the broadcast nets, the ostensibly unbiased networks, decline. It’s beginning to look more and more like this notion of an unbiased press, foisted on the public in the 1920’s, is crumbling. The press treats this as a bad thing, but why? A press with a mission isn’t the problem, as long as it has integrity. The problem is a press that lies about or omits facts. I’ll take a news organization that’s honest and tells me it’s political philosophy over an “unbiased” one any day.

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