The demise of examiner.com, what's it mean for citizen journalism?

examiner-logo-blue.jpgIt wasn't that long ago that online news sites began killing off the traditional news services. Many newspapers and magazines have either shut down (costing many cities a vitally necessary check on local government), or else shrank, or else transitioned to an online service. A generation of writers and journalists are under turmoil in a time period where we desperately need a check on the powerful elite. The 1% are in the process of doing grave harm to democracy and good governance around the world, and we need the Press to fulfill its rightful role.

One of the bright spots was the rise of citizen journalism - with one of the biggest such websites being examiner.com. Examiner.com allowed "anyone" to sign up to start writing articles, and had arranged with the likes of Google News to be a recognized news source. The result was .. uh .. spotty, since many Examiner writers did not try to practice proper journalism. A few, such as myself, did take the work seriously and produced good work through examiner.com.

As an Examiner - and later through sites like TorqueNews.com and PlugInCars.com - I was able to develop skill at journalistic writing. I was able to cover important events, attend many events as a journalist, and have a modicum of an impact on the news discussion.

On July 1st, Examiner.com sent us all an email saying that on July 10 the website would shut down. Strangely, I'm not finding any verification of this in the news. On Google News searching for "examiner.com shutting down" results in the following, but click on the link and Inquisitr.com says no such article exists. (you can read it via the Google Cache) To me this is big news, and certain news outlets out to be covering the demise of examiner.com. If nothing else, those organizations which cover the journalism business ought to be on the case.

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I've found a couple blog posts from other Examiner writers saying they too received such an email. Clearly something is afoot, Examiner.com sent out an email blast to Examiner writers, but why isn't there any public notice of this. The examiner.com website looks like it always has, and Google News has several new articles posted today on examiner.com.

Let's assume that indeed examiner.com is shutting down as the email says. What's it mean?

Personally: It won't mean much because I'd largely ignored examiner.com as a writing outlet. The traffic I was able to generate there didn't amount to much, and the pay rate was abysmal. I primarily kept the account active so that I could make postings which reach into Google News and other news aggregator sites.

I am sad, however. Back in 2009-10, I had high hopes for my role as an Examiner writer. I was excited with being a citizen journalist, and doing what I could to make an impact. It's the end of something where the reality was much smaller than the dream. I had already moved on from examiner.com in 2011 when I started writing for TorqueNews, and now see that it's important to own my platform rather than rely on a 3rd party to provide the platform for me.

Most/all the other Examiner writers I've seen have a similar story. The list of those who made much impact or made much money through examiner.com is extremely small. Most/all my fellow Examiner's were discouraged by the experience, and many had simply abandoned Examiner.

You can find my work covering electric vehicles and green technology on longtailpipe.com.

Society: I think our society is losing much of an intangible nature. I still believe citizen journalism has an important role, and there is certainly a strong need at this time for a strong check on the powerful elites. With the closure of examiner.com we're losing what could have been an important source of news coverage of that sort. But ... what examiner.com could have been in its idealist form strongly collides with what it actually became. It seemed the most popular Examiner writers (hence, making the most impact/money) were focusing on Celebrity news and the like.

Over the years Examiner.com (I began writing there in 2009) has cut way back on its service. In 2009 we had actual editorial support, but that transitioned to a tighter/smaller staff, and an ever-shrinking level of editorial support. They even shut down the internal ticket system which was our only avenue for asking questions of the staff. I suppose the handwriting was on the wall.

In other words, examiner.com was becoming a shell of its former self. Its status as a top-100 site receiving billions of page views a year wasn't enough for examiner.com to survive.