January 17, 2006
Grassroots Journalism and James Frey

As you all may have already picked up on, reading through the week's Entertainment Weekly has become one of my favorite activities. And this week I saw some news that I wouldn't generally expect to see on EW: Gilbert Cruz's brief story on a challenge to the veracity of James Frey's memoir, A Million Little Pieces.

As a journalism major in undergraduate at Western Kentucky University and as a working journalist for several years now, I've always been interested in the impact that new technologies have on a form of media integrated in our country's very fabric: the press. And Smoking Gun's expose accusing Frey of several fabrications in his book is as good of an example as any of grassroots media outlets gaining power.

The Smoking Gun Web site would hardly be considered a traditional journalism source, with its using open records to show arrest reports of celebrities and other major stories. The site is instead indicative of the trend that Dan Gillmor writes about in We the Media, as journalism becomes more and more open source, and the relationship between the traditional press and the readers is becoming murky with the development of the citizen/journalist or the grassroots journalist.

The James Frey episode is added to the list of ways that show how the American public as a whole, a body with collective intelligence, can do so much more than the small number of legitimate or professional journalists covering an area; journalists shouldn't see this as a threat but rather a way to challenge themselves and make themselves better and continue to be a guide as a seal of quality for what's true and what's not. But one thing is for sure--these reader-driven voices must be paid attention to because they are where most of the news stories of today begin.