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Citizen journalism is the concept of members of the
public "playing an active role in the process of
collecting, reporting, analyzing and
disseminating news and information. "The intent
of this participation is to provide independent,
reliable, accurate, wide-ranging and relevant
information that a democracy requires.“
Citizen journalism is a specific form of
citizen media as well as user generated content.
The idea behind citizen journalism is that people
without professional journalism training can use
the tools of modern technology and the global
distribution of the Internet to create, augment
or fact-check media on their own or in
collaboration with others.
J. D. Lasica classifies media for citizen journalism into the
Audience participation (such as user comments attached to news
stories, personal blogs, photos or video footage captured from
personal mobile cameras, or local news written by residents of a
Independent news and information Websites (Consumer Reports,
the Drudge Report)
Full-fledged participatory news sites (NowPublic, OhmyNews,
DigitalJournal.com, Blottr.com, GroundReport)
Collaborative and contributory media sites (Slashdot, Kuro5hin,
Other kinds of "thin media." (mailing lists, email newsletters)
Personal broadcasting sites (video broadcast sites such as
• Initially, discussions of public journalism focused on promoting
journalism that was "for the people" by changing the way
professional reporters did their work. According to Leonard
Witt, however, early public journalism efforts were, "often part
of 'special projects' that were expensive, time-consuming and
episodic. Too often these projects dealt with an issue and moved
on. Professional journalists were driving the discussion. They
would say, "Let's do a story on welfare-to-work (or the
environment, or traffic problems, or the economy)," and then
they would recruit a cross-section of citizens and chronicle
their points of view. Since not all reporters and editors bought
into this form of public journalism, and some outright opposed
it, reaching out to the people from the newsroom was never an
easy task." By 2003, in fact, the movement seemed to be
• With today’s technology the citizen journalist movement has
found new life as the average person can capture news and
distribute it globally.
Who are citizen journalists?
According to Jay Rosen, citizen journalists "the people formerly known as
the audience," who "were on the receiving end of a media system that ran
one way, in a broadcasting pattern, with high entry fees and a few firms
competing to speak very loudly while the rest of the population listened in
isolation from one another— and who today are not in a situation like that at
all. ... The people formerly known as the audience are simply the public
made realer, less fictional, more able, less predictable."
Public Journalism is now being explored via new media such as the use of
mobile phones. Mobile phones have the potential to transform reporting and
places the power of reporting in the hands of the public. Mobile telephony
provides low-cost options for people to set up news operations.
According to Mark Glaser, during 9/11 many eyewitness accounts of the
terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center came from citizen journalists.
Images and stories from citizen journalists close to the World Trade Center
offered content that played a major role in the story.
In 2004, when the 9.1-magnitude underwater earthquake caused a huge
tsunami in Indonesia, news footage from many people who experienced the
tsunami was widely broadcast.
Citizen journalists may be activists within the communities they write about. This has drawn
some criticism from traditional media institutions, which have accused proponents of public
journalism of abandoning the traditional goal of 'objectivity'. Many traditional journalists
view citizen journalism with some skepticism, believing that only trained journalists can
understand the exactitude and ethics involved in reporting news.
An academic paper by Vincent Maher, the head of the New Media Lab at Rhodes University,
outlined several weaknesses in the claims made by citizen journalists, in terms of the "three
deadly E's", referring to ethics, economics and epistemology.
An article in 2005 by Tom Grubisich reviewed ten new citizen journalism sites and found
many of them lacking in quality and content. He found that the best sites had improved
editorially and were even nearing profitability, but only by not expensing editorial costs.
Also according to the article, the sites with the weakest editorial content were able to
aggressively expand because they had stronger financial resources.
David Simon, a former Baltimore Sun reporter and writer/producer of the popular TV
series, "The Wire," criticized the concept of citizen journalism—claiming that unpaid
bloggers who write as a hobby cannot replace trained, professional, seasoned journalists.
Others criticize the formulation of the term "citizen journalism" to describe the concept,
as the word "citizen" has a conterminous relation to the nation-state. The fact that many
millions of people are considered stateless and often without citizenship (such as refugees
or immigrants without papers) limits the concept to those recognized only by governments.
Additionally the global nature of many participatory media initiatives, such as the
Independent Media Center, makes talking of journalism in relation to a particular nationstate largely redundant as its production and dissemination do not recognize national
boundaries. Some additional names given to the concept based on this analysis are
grassroots media, people's media, or participatory media.
Who’s doing it?
• The list of citizen journalism sites is long and
includes sites limited to nonprofessional
reporting, such as NowPublic and
CyberJournalist, and divisions of traditional
media companies that feature citizen
journalism, such as CNN’s I-Reporter.
• Some people use blogs, wikis, digital
storytelling applications, photo- and videosharing sites, and other online media as
vehicles for citizen journalism efforts.
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