Ladies’ Home Journal is taking open journalism one step further: to the magazine world. The publication announced on January 10 that its content will soon be written almost entirely by readers.
• Majority of the staff still keep their jobs, now working as fact-checks and helping develop the readers’ stories.
• Readers will be paid professional rates for contributing articles.
• Could help new or young journalists (such as those of us in j-school) get a foot in the door of the freelance world.
• Ladies’ Home Journal might gain new readership.
• Further blurs the line between who is and is not a journalist.
• Might not get enough content, or might get content that is not publishable.
• Unless freelance journalists contribute articles as ‘readers,’ there probably will not be as many professional articles or access to exclusive sources.
• Ladies’ Home Journal could lose readership.

Ideally, open journalism creates greater transparency, accuracy, and trust—OpenFile is a successful example. My concern, though, is that in an age where it is already difficult to decide who qualifies as a journalist, a move like this only makes that question more confusing. OpenFile is a specific concept—it was founded solely for the purpose of open journalism. But for Ladies’ Home Journal to change this dramatically is a risky move. Though there are a few exceptions, so far the internet has been the great untamed wild of ‘journalism,’ where anyone from ages four to 99 can write a blog post about their day.

I do not like the idea. I am all for higher transparency—and I think it is great that readers can become more involved with the magazine—but having them write the majority of the content seems like a bad move. Maybe it’s the change-resistant part of me writing this, but journalism should be written by people who spend their days absorbed in the subject; by people who genuinely care about what is going down on paper and know how to craft a compelling story.


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About the author

Rebecca Zanussi was the Head of Research of the Summer 2012 issue of the Ryerson Review of Journalism.

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