“A wide range of activities in which everyday people contribute information or commentary about news events.” (Educause Learning Initiative (2007)) “The collection, dissemination, and analysis of news by the public, by means of cell phones, digital cameras, blogs, etc.” (Google Dictionary)
The rise in citizen journalism corresponds with the growth in new communication and information technologies. These new technologies that serve as media for internet based social interaction are known as “social media”. Through social media websites, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and blogs, citizens can report their own experiences and eye witness accounts.
2009 Iranian uprising broadcasted through Twitter updates through users, such as Change_For_Iran
Landing of a plane in the Hudson River, New York on January 15, 2009 by Twitter users who witnessed the landing, such as Janis Krums below
Salam Pax (b 1973) An Iraqi blogger who chronicled events of the Iraq War on his blog through 2002 to 2004. Dubbed “most famous blogger in the world”
Originally Citizen Journalism was confined to a few non professional reporting sites, such as NowPublic and CyberJournalist. However, now use of blogs, wikis, digital storytelling applications, photo- and video- sharing sites, and other online social media serve as vehicles for citizen journalism efforts.
The growth of citizen journalism has reduced the place of traditional newspapers and news outlets as the main source of current events.
At the same time, social media websites, such as Twitter, have seen an explosion in growth during the same period.
Citizen Journalism has transformed the power relationship between the media and the public. As a result, traditional media outlets have attempted to harness the power of citizen journalism through collaboration with user generated content and social media.
Examples of cooperation between media outlets and citizen journalism include: BBC’s User Generated Content Hub Rueter’s partnership with blogging network Global Voices CNN’s I Report
Users can submit videos, audio, and photos from their cell phone or computer to have their stories shared on CNN’s network television channel and website. Through I Report, CNN harnesses the power of citizen journalism to convey breaking news and unique perspectives in a way traditional media does not allow. However, as will be seen, this collaboration between the media and citizen journalism holds significant benefits and drawbacks that must be accounted when providing quick and reliable information.
Increased speed and access to information Traditional media is limited by access to resources and time to communicate events to the public. Citizen Journalism greatly increases the range of sources for events and the speed with which they can be communicated. For instance, coverage of 2009 Iranian protesters by participants and observers where traditional media was prohibited in Iran.
Personal feedback It extends the belief that the experiences of people personally involved with an issue present a different—and often more complete—picture of events than can be derived from the perspective of an outsider. (Educause Learning Initiative (2007)) For example, Salam Pax’s chronicles of the Iraq War
Improved trust and interaction with local media Research has shown that traditional news outlets believe that participation by readers improves the quality of the news, and such participation tends to increase the trust that the community has in the news and media. For example, CNN’s I Report
Reduced Quality of Content Amidst the diverse array of information and sources, discerning between important and trivial content becomes costly and time consuming.
Reduced Reliability Much of the information gathered from citizen journalists may be false or partially inaccurate. While conscientious professional journalists are careful to separate supportable evidence from opinion or speculation, many citizen journalists have a weaker sense of what constitutes a reliable story. If the media relies too heavily upon citizen journalists for information, consumers may begin to distrust the media.
Citizen journalism has become a powerful tool to unite the media and the public to produce quick, reliable, and detailed stories, which neither group could accomplish alone. This collaboration has begun to revolutionize the way in which we obtain information about current events.
Nevertheless, the rise of citizen journalism poses significant risks that could reduce the quality and reliability of information distributed to the public. As a result, citizen journalism will likely continue to influence and play a role in traditional media yet never fully replace it.