Should the Polk awards or other prestigious industry awards be given to non-journalists?

More and more people are publishing content through the use of blogs, videos, and other means. Some of this content citizen journalistic in nature and this content is on the rise. I doubt anyone would argue with that. But whether it is a good thing is a constant source of debate in and out of the traditional newsroom.

One of the main concerns with citizen journalism is that they are not held to the Society of Professional Journalists Professional Code of Ethics as the majority of traditional journalists are. So, it is possible that the facts of the story may not be fairly checked, the way the citizen journalist got the information may not be ethical, etc.

But what if the Polk Awards and other prestigious awards were a way to reward citizen journalists for following those professional standards? In this way, we would be upholding high standards by giving out rewards instead of punitively punishing them for going against traditional journalism standards. It’s more positive and it seems like a much more sustainable option considering how little control we have over citizen journalism and the fact that control will probably continue to decrease. It’s very similar the Five Guys secret shopper program. Instead of being there to punish employees for bad behavior, the secret shoppers are there to reward employees for positive behavior. The employees strive for excellence and Five Guys has to worry less about catching employees doing something wrong and then punishing them after the fact.

But, it is still the responsibility of the main new organizations and those giving out awards to double-check the facts. For example PDA’s blog points out in it’s article Anonymous video of Neda Aghan-Soltan’s death wins Polk award that the BBC and other new organizations, when using user-generated content, check and rate it by experts. Only this way, can we truly rely on the accuracy of the content.

So, my opinion is that non-journalists should be given the Polk awards or other prestigious rewards as long as they adhere to the high professional standards that traditional journalists do.

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