On Monday we had a class discussion about the concept of “citizen journalism.” What is a citizen journalist? According to a Google search, citizen journalism is defined as “The collection, dissemination, and analysis of news and information by the general public, by the use of mobile phones, digital cameras, blogs, etc.” In other words, modern technology enables the average person to spread information about current events in real-time along with his or her opinions on said events. With the advent of the internet and the ubiquity of smartphones, it is no longer necessary to wait for professional journalists and other members of the media to report on an event. This is furthered by the multitude of social media platforms available to us (you can read a previous post of mine here in which I explain how easy it is to distribute a piece of information using the internet and another post here about a newer social media platform called Path). Below are some pros and cons of citizen journalism.
1. Information is spread much faster.
2. Information is spread from many sources, diluting the potential for bias
3. Citizen journalists are not subjected to editors and can publish what they want in exactly the manner that they want. This can provide a fresh perspective to a topic.
1. Citizen journalists are not subjected to editors and can publish what they want in exactly the manner that they want. This can provide the public with false or misleading information on a topic.
2. If citizen journalism replaces professional journalism, the public’s level of awareness may decrease if the quality of reporting is lower.
With respect to the first con, you can read a funny post here that my professor wrote about how frequently stories spread about the alleged deaths of celebrities/politicians/athletes, etc. when in fact they were alive and well. Often times, official sources such as Fox News are in such a rush to beat their competitors to a story that they fail to check the validity of the story’s content, proceeding with the fake information and adding to the frenzy when they should be refuting it!
This begs the question, if a professional journalist shares something while he or she is not working, are they considered a professional journalist or a citizen journalist? For example, if a journalist were to witness an instance of police brutality and were to send a Tweet or post a video on Youtube of the incident, would they be acting as a professional or as a citizen? I’ll spare you my opinion on the matter and will simply pass the question on to you. What do you think?
Lastly, here is a great blog post about how citizen journalism is driving the information revolution. It’s written by a guy named Trevor Turnbull, an entrepreneur who has a number of other really interesting posts and whose personal website you can find here.