So far, the only thing we really know is that citizen journalism is getting more popular, and more people are starting to utilize the fact that they, too, can be publishers of content. We see it almost daily during television newscasts- photos of snowfall outside during the winter, photos of a car accident blocking a major intersection, a breaking news event, or spotting a local sports star at a grocery store. What exactly though, is news? Is seeing your favorite Quarterback in Kroger really news? Is there a line to be drawn?
As with anything, there are two sides to every story. Some people think citizen journalism is a great thing! It can be a great tool, and way to promote interactivity between news people and the rest of the community, so let’s look into this a little further:
- It provides the community with a different perspective, from one of their own who lives and breathes what happens there every single day.
- Helps to get local citizens more engaged in the issues affecting their lives.
- For activism.
- It makes possible the coverage of events that the mainstream media might otherwise miss.
- Citizen journalists have no formal training in reporting. There are several risks to consider, including factual inaccuracies and a lack of impartiality (to name a few!)
- Citizen reporters don’t have any ethics training in how to handle certain situations that may arise.
- How exactly do we define news? There’s a big discrepancy in this, as everyone has their own idea of what is considered important.
Roy Peter Clark, from the Poynter Institute, cites in his article Who is the fifth estate and what is its role in Journalism’s Future? that “amateurism can become a dangerous substitute for trained, responsible behavior. But in the right context, with appropriate training, amateurs can contribute to the professions and to society as “paraprofessionals.”
There are obvious upsides and dangers to remember whenever the idea of citizen journalism is brought up, and not everyone agrees on whether news outlets should rely on citizen journalism as a valuable source or not. According to a 2012 Poynter Institute survey, Americans seem to be on the fence as to whether they would trust citizen journalism.
No matter what side your opinion lies on, as journalists, we have to accept that this is the direction in which our craft is taking. There are still a lot of questions to be answered, but the advancement of technology has allowed anyone with a camera phone and a laptop to be a publisher.
Citizen journalism can be a great thing, because it provides a more personal view, and can bring communities together to rally around a common cause or point of view. By increasing interactivity by journalism professionals and the public(s) in which they represent, one of the benefits could be an increased level of trust. So, what do you guys think? There’s a fine line between relying on citizen journalism TOO much, and using it JUST enough to enhance your broadcast, storytelling abilities and trust within the community.