As discussed in my last post, I talked about the CouncilStat program in New York City, in which citizens can write in make city officials aware of different problems happening in their neighborhoods. This is a great way to include citizens in city discussions, and is an easy way for citizens to start gaining a voice, and some ground, in their own neighborhoods. We’re seeing this pop up more every single day, although the thought can seem daunting.
In general, it seems like a broad, out of reach idea that citizen journalism can actually have an impact on a national scale. Sure, we’ve seen it when a breaking news situation occurs… you know, when one photo gets shared, shared again… and the next thing you know, it’s on CNN? How often does this actually happen though? More than likely… not very often.
Instead, citizen journalists should start small. Start writing for a community newspaper (or newsletter, if you have one), attend a City Hall meeting and share your ideas and opinions, things like that. Writing about things happening around you, from your point of view, is what’s going to draw attention. A blog written by Ron Ross gives more good tips for being a good citizen journalist, but the one that stuck out to me the most was passion. Be passionate about what’s going on, be passionate about where you live, and be passionate about what you want to see happen in your area. If you’re driven, you can make it happen. Citizens provide a different perspective than a reporter who is assigned to write a story, and that’s exactly what makes citizen journalism unique.
There are several news stations around where I am, in Morgantown, that are already looking for citizens story ideas, tips, photos, audio, etc. We’re finally seeing an expanded use for user-generated content beyond breaking news. While these are just a few news stations (and opportunities) out of many, it should give people an idea of the opportunities that are available. So what are you waiting on? Go take advantage!