Well, apparently not journalists! Citizen journalism is on the rise. The trend continues–>the internet is putting power in the hands of individuals, regardless of educational background, geographical location, time zone or economic class. Online independent media outlets are popping up everywhere & people without any formal training or journalism background have the power, tools & resources to report on anything, anywhere. Mobile devices like phones or ipods or lap tops have the ability to record and capture both still pictures and video. Those things are common to the majority of the population, not just the privileged, educated journalists.
Journalism| noun|ˈjər-nə-ˌli-zəm|the collection and editing of news for presentation through the media. (Merriam Webster)
That is the very first definition of journalism listed in the dictionary and doesn’t specify that it is a professional thing- (and I am not by any means saying that journalism is not a profession & that journalists are not professionals- because I’m studying journalism & fully believe it does require a degree of professionalism & the like). However, the definition shows that the practice of journalism is open to anybody. News is everywhere & it is utterly impossible for a journalist to be everywhere all the time, so when news emerges without the presence of a journalist, why can’t they eye witness “report”? Nothing is stopping them. News dissemination is emerging from the past tight grip of big news outlets & is scattering into the smaller hands of hundreds of thousands of news outlets and resources. And thus you have the birth of citizen journalism.
As a journalism student I have two very different views on the reality and the practice of citizen journalism.
First the good.
The Huffington Post did something incredible with its birth, it opened up its news content to the public, anybody with information can post to the website. There are no formal editors that the writers have to report to or any of that other stuff that typically goes in a regular newsroom. Journalism is, after all, suppose to be the upkeeper of democracy and democracy is a government by the people for the people- so, what better way to get news then from the people. Not just the person behind the typewriter and the scribbled-in notebook. Mayhill Fowler wrote for the Huffington Post multiple times, twice she broke huge news on prominent political figures- Barack Obama in his run for the presidency & Bill Clinton, while his wife ran for the presidency. She caught the words of both political figures that really shot a blow to their credibility. But how did just an “ordinary” citizen have such close access to these figures?? Because she WASN’T a formal journalist….kind of ironic, no?
Another upside, with citizen journalists reporting they can openly admit to bias, which is kind of helpful & on a new level, very transparent. Journalism has always suppose to be objective, however, opinion, bias & outlooks are impossible to get rid of. so, no journalist truly, purely and untainted reports objectively- its impossible. So, by adding this other element of transparency into the operation of the journalist by admitting bias, it adds to credibility. Fowler openly admitted to being an avid Obama supporter during the campaign & yet still published work that could have been very detrimental to the success of the presidential candidate.
Now the downside.
Without formal training there is no teaching or “deeper” understanding of the practice. Ethics and accuracy become a major issues without the formality of editing that exists in a legitimate newsroom. Ethical operations and accurate delivery of stories is essential to upholding the good name of journalism- without the practice is tarnished.
So, the world of citizen journalism is absolutely questionable, but on the other hand incredibly beneficial to the reality of news dissemination.
Democracy is for the people by the people..why shouldn’t the news be?