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Citizen journalism may become a helpful supplement to mainstream reporting, especially in smaller towns, just as bloggers help elucidate news on specific topics for millions of readers. But the more important (and more challenging) the stories are, the more likely it is that citizen journalists won't have the wherewithal to complete them. "Citizen journalism will not be the Fourth Estate," Cauthorn says. "It's not going to sit down and stare across the room at an army of lawyers for some government official who's outraged that you've written about his misdeeds."
In the best case, Newmark is joining a movement that will someday be of moderate help to the mainstream media. In the worst case, citizen journalism's optimistic supporters, in neglecting the problems of the public institution that is the mainstream press, may leave America with both a failing news media and a mediocre technology that offers little assistance on essential stories.
Even as he makes big waves in the media industry, Newmark still isn't sure this is a battle he wants to fight. "I don't want to disrupt the people who are really getting it done. I may just wind up promoting their work, I'm not sure. I could screw things up if I'm not careful," he says. "I'm speaking from the gut here, but the deal is, I'm trying. And sometimes, trying and making noise means something."