Citizen journalism is defined on Wikipedia as “the collection, dissemination, and analysis of news and information by the general public, especially by means of the Internet” and gives examples of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram as key role players in the new age of Journalism. This role has been brought into by society in the past decade with the growth of technology and the internet.
The public now have the ability to witness groundbreaking news and share it globally on online platforms in a matter of seconds, thus creating us a new field of journalism. Citizen journalism has allowed more extraneous information including raw footage of famine and war to be easily collected and shared with the world, giving people the chance to have media revealed instantly that would not have been available at such a fast pace before
Twitter is a key player, and the list of news stories that break on Twitter before they do on mainstream media is staggering, one of the most famous example would be Twitter breaking the news of Michael Jacksons shock death. Another incredibly famous example was the 2011 raid of Osama Bin Laden’s hideout which lead to his death. A local IT Consultant reported unwittingly in tweets exactly one day before President Obama officially announced it to the world.
Although these remarkable tweets have gone down positively in history, many could argue that Citizen Journalism is due to take over the mainstream media as the public is now more in control. British printing and online publication The Guardian decided to take action on the threat of technology and the audience taking over by creating an application named ‘Guardian Witness’ which targets its audience as they can instantly upload their captured content whether it is audio or visual and upload it to the site, by doing this they became ahead of their competition and give hope for the mainstream media to act alongside the Citizen Journalist instead of against. “Phone cameras and internet video must threaten broadcasters who think TV viewers will move away from them (and on to the web), but the collective arena is a hive of creativity,” says documentary pioneer Molly Dineen. “It should add to what traditional documentary makers are doing and not take away.”
Citizen journalists’ footage and social media doesn’t impact his work however he views it as a necessary tool for the future. “Natural history and science is, I think, a different beast completely from current affairs programs. Digital activity has found traction in reaction to news events and for live especially. I think for us the digital stuff is really about amplification around what we are doing already.”. People around the world posted more than 100,000 stories on CNNiReport.com last year. Out of that, 10,789 were vetted for CNN, which means they were fact-checked and approved to be broadcast on CNN TV or featured on CNN.com. This is a staggering amount of Citizen Journalism and is ultimately helping get the real news across immediately, helping the media outlets in a sense but also destroying their workload at the same time.
On 9th August 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager was killed by a police officer and the scene was caught on Twitter User “@TheePharaoh” timeline as he posted pictures of the immediate aftermath. Following riots, the public turned to the notion of “see something, say something”. Antonio French, a sworn by Citizen Journalist spent days after the shooting posting to Twitter a series of police actions he had captured and was deemed a “Citizen Journalist of the best kind: a credible witness who helped inform the wider public about a critical matter”. French received the utmost respect for his efforts which again shows that Citizen Journalism is becoming more and more necessary.
However, in May 2013 a British Army Soldier by the name of Lee Rigby was attacked and killed on the streets of Woolwich, Southeast London by Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale. In this situation, many people argued that the original uploader of the video of the two men decapitating an off duty soldier in the middle of a London road was too far. Citizen Journalism is not always positive and due to the nature of the video, the public were not pleased for such a video to be posted online for everyone to see, however if the video had been sent through to mainstream media, an authoritive figure would have made the correct and thought out decision on what to do with the video.
Finally I bring to light “The Oscar Grant Shooting of 2009” in Oakland. In the early hours of New Year’s Day, BART police officer Johannes Mehserle shot an unarmed man, Oscar Grant, for apparently resisting arrest at a train station in Oakland, California. Bystanders in a delayed train parallel to the shooting caught the incident on digital phones. Within a day, the footage was broadcast online and on TV stations across the world which eventually incited protests, and featuring heavily in the ongoing manslaughter trial. Grant’s death is one in a line of cases this year of police brutality caught on camera phone by onlookers. This in itself is one of the greatest positives of this due to Police Brutality becoming a very big thing globally, however is being brought to light intensively in the United States of America and is causing an uproar across the continent. The Black Lives Matter (BLM) group who fight for black rights, especially against the police rely mainly on Citizen Journalism to broadcast exactly what is going on across the USA.
I personally believe that the media should be fearful of the idea of Citizen Journalism as it is incredibly beneficial to their own work and sourcing. I think they should view the new age journalism as something to work alongside with as both could benefit each other. There are a ridiculous amount of benefits around Citizen Journalism and the media has never been so close to their audiences as much as they are now, which you can argue this will help the public believe more in the new age media which we are surrounded by every day.
What do you think? Go to my twitter page and answer my poll to view live stats on whether Twitter is deemed a reliable news source: