Has The Nature Of The Citizen Journalist Changed? – Conclusion

Where citizen journalism has its’ many advantages and disadvantages I think the case studies show my hypothesis stands. it has had a gradual development over the decade, from a term barely known before the millennium to now when anybody can step up and report the news just by taking a picture on their phone, e.g.

“you have hundreds of ready citizens to report you not on daily but on hourly basis. This gives unique coverage, breaking news and headlines of most important events anywhere in the world. Without delays and waiting”

(NewsMeBack interview).

For many, they believe that 9/11 was the spark for citizen journalism, although this is not definitively proven a gradual change in the nature of the journalist has been seen with the impact of new technology. Demotix is a firm believer that citizen journalism has changed with technology, e,g.

“Phones have definitely changed everything, specifically smartphones and apps. This is something that has yet to really pick up, but it certainly will”.

This raises more questions that need to be answered such as will the citizen journalist and the professional be able to coexist? Citizen journalist group, NewsMeBack believes that they can and should with the professionals checking the CJ news and give their own thoughts to give better news coverage. However Michael Bromley is a bit sceptical and says

“how is the relationship between the professional and the amateur managed in the military, in health services, in the emergency services, etc.? the way journalists talk about cjs you wouldn’t think that 70 per cent of fire fighters in the us are citizen amateurs, or that the invasion and occupation of Iraq was undertaken primarily by citizen soldiers in the national guard. This is something the British army is now going to have to deal with.”

UGC was initially a worry for newspapers but people are realising citizen journalism is not a threat but an aid, e.g.

“The press borrows or appropriates forms it believes will strengthen its product, attract an audience or allow it to compete with newer types of media already using the techniques”

(Kelly, John (2009) Red kayaks and hidden gold: the rise, challenge and value of citizen journalism, Reuters Institute, p.22).

Citizen journalism and professional journalism can work together, written with skill alongside a colour-adding opinion but one thing that we cannot be sure if the future. Citizen journalism group NewsMeBack believes there is a growth to CJ and a future,

“Professional journalists will just have to learn to accept and work together with citizen journalists because media is changing every day. And those changes are in favour of citizen journalism.”

Along with Demotix who believe that will actually save the media, e.g.

“Citizen journalism will not be the only way, but it will have a huge holding in the media. I think this is unstoppable. Citizen journalism can likely help save the media industry as well.”

Professional, Michael Bromley, agrees to an extent

“the core will survive indefinitely; the periphery (the modish) will not last long.”

One thing is certain is that we cannot be sure of the future. If the nature of the citizen journalist has changed in the past decade we do not know what the next decade will hold for journalism.

Interview with Demotix

Email Interview with citizen journalism group, Demotix

 Do you consider citizen journalism a gift or menace to news reporters?

If a reporter cares about the future of journalism and transparency they should consider citizen journalism a plus. Citizen journalism is very fair, and the pay scale is much more giving as well. More importantly, instead of sending a journalist with little knowledge of a foreign place, we now have the local citizens telling the stories.

When do you believe the phrase ‘citizen journalist’ became common?

I’d just wiki that.

Do you believe that the nature of the citizen journalist has changed in the past decade? (e.g. now anybody with a phone can be a journalist).

Phones have definitely changed everything, specifically smartphones and apps. This is something that has yet to really pick up, but it certainly will. Ex: The Hudson River crash

What do you consider to be the pros and cons of citizen journalists?

There are dozens of pros, but one con is reliability and a lack-of a unified code of ethics. But, these are are obstacles, which can be tackled with a proper editorial staff.


Do you think there are any economical implications for working news reporters that cause them to rely on citizen journalists?

News papers are definitely relying on citizen journalists or untapped professional journalists. Images especially are coming from the scene all across the Middle East and Africa directly from local citizen journalists. These aren’t reporters placed by news papers or agencies.


Do you believe a relationship between the ‘professional’ and the citizen journalist could be successfully operated?

100% – a lot is still to be revealed, but its well on its way –  especially in our office.

What do you predict for the future of citizen journalism?

Citizen journalism will not be the only way, but it will have a huge holding in the media. I think this is unstoppable. Citizen journalism can likely help save the media industry as well. Transparency across the globe will heavily increase as well as citizen journalism grows. This will also create a larger calling for good fact finders.

Interview with Michael Bromley

Email interview with Professor of Journalism, Michael Bromley

Do you consider citizen journalism a gift or menace to news reporters?

I don’t think it is either. it can assist reporters by providing additional information, perspective; and it can hinder by being misleading or inaccurate.

When do you believe the phrase ‘citizen journalist’ became common?

Probably with the emergence of ohmynews – sometime soon after 2000

Do you believe that the nature of the citizen journalist has changed in the past decade? (e.g. now anybody with a phone can be a journalist).

No. fundamentally, citizen journalism is the same as it was. what has changed is the scope of various allied practices, such as user-generated content (which is not synonymous with citizen journalism).

What do you consider to be the pros and cons of citizen journalists?

Pros = multiplicity of voices; multi-perspectival; expansion of the public sphere; a counter to corporate media dominance. cons = lack of definition (anything counts).

Do you think there are any economical implications for working news reporters that cause them to rely on citizen journalists?

The economic constraints on reporters were evident long before cj appeared. indeed, it could be argued that the gross deficiencies in reporting which built up from the 1980s gave rise to cj because vast areas of human activity were simply not being reported either adequatetly or at all.

Do you believe a relationship between the ‘professional’ and the citizen journalist could be successfully operated?

Interesting question, and one which is asked in many occupations. how is the relationship between the professional and the amateur managed in the military, in health services, in the emergency services, etc.? the way journalists talk about cjs you wouldn’t think that 70 per cent of fire fighters in the us are citizen amateurs, or that the invasion and occupation of iraq was undertaken primarily by citizen soldiers in the national guard. this is something the british army is now going to have to deal with.

What do you predict for the future of citizen journalism?

The core will survive indefinitely; the periphery (the modish) will not last long.

Interview with NewsMeBack

Email interview with citizen journalism group, NewsMeBack


Do you consider citizen journalism a gift or menace to news reporters?

Of course as a gift. News reporters need constant news and citizen journalism offers many various photos, reportage and videos.

When do you believe the phrase ‘citizen journalist’ became common?

Citizen journalism idea is not so young, but I suppose around 2009-2010 phrase citizen journalist started to spread around the world, both on online and mainstream media.

Do you believe that the nature of the citizen journalist has changed in the past decade? (e.g. now anybody with a phone can be a journalist).

Sure, today it’s easier than ever to be a citizen journalist. You have the tools and social media, all you need is a gadget and news of course.

What do you consider to be the pros and cons of citizen journalists?

There are really many pros and cons for this phenomenon but here are few maybe most important.

Pros : – Availability to wide range of news, no matter how local they are. This gives citizen journalists real exclusivity.        – Citizen journalists usually cover the news which mainstream media misses, that’s why they are much needed in filling the gaps.

Cons:  – Maybe lack of ethics, but that depends of a person, it is an issue with professional journalists, too.        –  Checking the facts – usually citizen journalists record an event and present it to the public, very often without checking all the facts related to the event.

Do you think there are any economical implications for working news reporters that cause them to rely on citizen journalists?

In the past journalists had to travel to any country for news reporting. Now, there’s no need for that when you have hundreds of ready citizens to report you not on daily but on hourly basis. This gives unique coverage, breaking news and headlines of most important events anywhere in the world. Without delays and waiting.

Do you believe a relationship between the ‘professional’ and the citizen journalist could be successfully operated?

Yes, professional journalists should check citizen journalism news and give their own insights, maybe some additional research if required. All that for better news coverage and audience.

What do you predict for the future of citizen journalism?

Citizen journalism has certain future and growth. Professional journalists will just have to learn to accept and work together with citizen journalists because media is changing every day. And those changes are in favour of citizen journalism.

Pros And Cons Of Citizen Journalism

Citizen journalism seems to be considered a hindrance by many however welcomed by many others. Citizen journalism can be considered raw and uncensored however this could not be portrayed to the public with the skill of a professional. Some consider the practicality of it serves journalism for the better rather than for the worse whereas some see it as a threat to the media and their future. Some believe that they have a future hand in hand so it is vital to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of citizen journalism to analyse how it has changed and will continue to develop in the future.

Pros

There are considered to be many pros to citizen journalism but the most important probably have to be that it adds a wider berth and colour as it collates information that would not have been placed into the public eye otherwise This can be through a poll, blog or comment, this gives a story a multifaceted view rather than that of the journalist who wrote it. NewsMeBack agrees that the pros are that it gives a wider range of news,

“no matter how local they are. This gives citizen journalists real exclusivity”

and as well as this they cover the news that mainstream media misses and Michael Bromley agrees that it gives a “multiplicity of voices”. Citizen journalism group Demotix also believes that

“If a reporter cares about the future of journalism and transparency they should consider citizen journalism a plus.”

This is evidence that they are needed to feel the gaps left.

Social media as a form of citizen journalism is seen as an aid for journalism by many despite its’ downfalls due to the way it breaks news through trending topics and collating all the news in one ideal location. Due to this, it has created a greater interest in news through online discussion and the spreading need to share information with others, as it is stated

“Most people are still happy to rely on mainstream news organisations to sort fact from fiction and serve up a filtered view, but they are increasingly engaged by this information, particularly when recommended by friends or another trusted source”

(Newman, Nic (2009) The rise of social media and its impact on mainstream journalism, Reuters Institute, p.2).

Social media is enabling a powerful form of citizen journalism with live coverage of events such as hurricane Sandy that allow bursts of information as it is happening.

Cons

The issue with citizen journalism is the professionalism of it but as NewsMeBack states it depends on the person and believes it is an issue with professional journalists too. It is argued that for a good story a journalist needs the skills they could only acquire with training however that is not to say that an ordinary person is not capable of objectively telling us the story. For many, citizen journalism isn’t even an attempt at bettering the media, but simply aiding it to report to the mass media or just to get their opinion out on a public scale and as this is the case it makes the material a good read but also one that is looked at with a great scepticism as a big problem with it seems to be checking the facts, e.g.

“usually citizen journalists record an event and present it to the public, very often without checking all the facts related to the event”

(NewsMeBack interview).

Many will look at citizen journalism as lacking the ethical and professional legitimacy of professional as it is stated

“this legitimacy may be unknown with a blog or user-created site and, indeed, there have been cases where individuals have gamed the system, deliberately posting material they know not to be true”

(Kelly, John (2009) Red kayaks and hidden gold: the rise, challenge and value of citizen journalism, Reuters Institute, p.30).

The thing about social media and Twitter is there is a flow of false be it the deaths of numerous celebrities, which can be so easily taken in by the mainstream media hoping to break the story first.

Citizen Journalism – Hurricane Sandy Case Study

On October 29 2012 a hurricane named ‘Sandy’ became the largest Atlantic hurricane on record devastating areas of the Mid-Atlantic, Caribbean and the North East of the US as well as having lesser affects in the Southwest, Midwest US states and Eastern Canada. Due to the severe damage caused by the hurricane, some reports referred to it as a ‘superstorm’. It was reported that

“after having left more than 60 people dead in the Caribbean, Hurricane Sandy is said to have caused the deaths of more than 80 people in its next port-of-call, the United States, including 41 in New York City alone”

(http://www.examiner.com/article/hurricane-sandy-likely-to-be-the-most-damaging-ever-recorded-us-history-why).

It is thought that the economic losses range to around the $50 billion mark, with $12 billion stemming from the New York City metropolitan.

Citizen journalism became important in this with people beginning to take it on in different forms, in particular social media, e.g.

“When Hurricane Sandy made landfall on the evening of Oct. 29, many residents looked to social media to inform them on the latest happenings of the on-going devastation, which ranged from flood reports to reports of power outages and violent winds, to even fires. Millions used social networks like Twitter and Facebook to discover and share important news, as well as their own statuses with family and friends”

(http://www.ibtimes.com/hurricane-sandy-social-media-role-citizen-journalism-coverage-frankenstorm-discussed-ibttalks-863618).

This is clear evidence citizen journalism became people’s source of news as well as using it to contribute with their own information. Social media became invaluable, with Facebook being a means of spreading information and fundraising. People affected by the storm were without these forms of communication and could not inform what was happening, so it required people to go into affected areas and report the information to outsiders, e.g.

“the people with the least access to the Internet as a result of the storm are the ones who may benefit the most from social media. Those who have ventured into the devastated areas have been able to get information out so that help can come in from informing those outside of the devastated areas”

(http://digitalethos.org/social-media-and-hurricane-sandy/).

Doing this allowed photos of the devastated areas to be documented online for the world to see, informing the public of what happened. This was a major influence for relief efforts, these images and the information released by citizen journalism prompted Facebook pages to start-up of people sharing experiences of the event and donation pages. Without this information being collected by outsiders, posting it online or giving the information to the news outlets, the destruction may not have been revealed on the level it was. These pages will survive longer than a television news broadcast and it

“continues to be a source of support and assistance”

(http://digitalethos.org/social-media-and-hurricane-sandy/). 

Citizen Journalism – London Riots Case Study

The London riots erupted in 2011 between August 6 and 10, after the protests in Tottenham that followed the death of Mark Duggan. Duggan was a local man shot dead by police sparking protest from the community,

“About 300 people gathered outside the police station on the High Road after demonstrators demanded ‘justice’”

(http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-14434318).

The protests quickly escalated into riots which led to shops being looted and arson attacks. The following days saw ‘copycat violence’ take place in other parts of London, spreading to other major cities. Afterwards several arrests were made, e.g.

“About 3,100 people so far have been arrested, of whom over 1,100 have been through the courts for offences ranging from burglary and arson, to violence and disorder”

(http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14532532).

Citizen journalism played a crucial role as for many; the riots began with Twitter messages shortly before 9pm on 6 August. Many rioters failed to cover their face and posted pictures of themselves with stolen goods online. Despite London’s use of CCTV cameras throughout the city the police ended up using social networking site Flickr to find those responsible. This is evidence that citizen footage was used more than previous methods of gathering information, in this case on a crime, as stated

“beyond the lenses of CCTV however, citizens are snapping looters in action, without the identity-hiding garb. Many of the alleged perpetrators are easily identifiable — if you happen to know who they are”

(http://www.nbcnews.com/technology/technolog/citizen-cameras-capture-more-london-looters-cops-121801).

Social media was relied on further with Facebook pages created to identify looters involved and news organisations deployed live maps confirming areas where there had been verified lootings to navigate the dangerous and crowded areas,

“With 500 members and growing, the ‘Lets catch the London 201 rioters and looters’ Facebook community page features a growing collection of both photos and videos”

(http://www.nbcnews.com/technology/technolog/citizen-cameras-capture-more-london-looters-cops-121801).

Blackberry messenger was used to help organise the rioters however some experts, such as Megan Boler, say it does not matter what method of communication was used as due to the digital age the technology and the use of it has taken over to an extent,

“It’s ubiquitous technology, It’s everywhere”

(http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2011/08/10/social-media-riots.html).

The police were also using it to track down rioters. BBM gave rioters the ability to contact individuals or broadcast messages to entire contact lists instantly, revealing where riots were currently taking place and keeping note of the police’s activity. A secure server for these messages made it difficult for the police to track them. This is evidence that with the rise of the digital age, the citizen journalists created and the use of technology, it is more an aid for those raised within it than the older generations. Twitter also played a for citizens and journalists reporting and following live updates on the riots and received a lot of criticism for its part, e.g.

“The Daily Mail was particularly quick to blame Twitter for helping to orchestrate the rioting and for spreading triumphal images from the rioters themselves. One picture of a burning police car was retweeted over 100 times and the Mail reported that the ‘troublemakers’ on Twitter were encouraging ‘scores more people into the area’”

(http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/08/08/london-riots-twitter-that_n_920791.html).

The police were a firm believer in Twitter being used for ‘evil’ as much as BBM was, e.g.

“in an age of social media in which disgruntled youth are frequently more skilled with smart phones than are the adults who police them, London authorities believe handheld technologies may have helped those trying to instigate violence to spread their message”

(http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2087337,00.html).

Twitter became the communication method of choice and citizens were quick to defend it against the criticisms of helping crime, stating it was the people behind the accounts,

“Speed Communications managing director, Stephen Waddington, defended Twitter’s role: ‘Twitter is being used to exchange messages in the way that previous generations used technology such as phone, email and SMS. To claim that Twitter had a role in the Tottenham riots is as credible as placing the blame at the hands of mobile phone handset manufacturers or mobile operators.’”

(http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/08/08/london-riots-twitter-that_n_920791.html).

Twitter has become an effective form of communication with users able to retweet and hashtag, easing the effort of spreading the word. Also being thought it was used for good when spreading messages, retweeting news rather than user’s original content, e.g.

“it may be premature to suggest, as some British tabloids have, that the service somehow fuelled the chaos. Sure, users retweeted an image of a burning police car 100 times during the riot, but it hardly follows automatically that this image inspired anyone to grab a crowbar and start smashing the windows of electronics stores”

(http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2087337,00.html).

Also we cannot forget the mobile phone. Police requested information from mobile phone operators to aid their capture of criminals involved, asking for

“data about the locations calls were made from, the owners of phones, and lists of calls made to and from a particular handset”

(http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/aug/09/uk-riots-mobile-phone-operators).

This event is a clear message there’s a developing generation divide for citizen journalism, with the younger, ‘digital’ generation wielding this new communication method as well as being quick to defend it, and the older generation quick to criticise it.