Tagged: 9/11

Citizen Journalism – 9/11 Case Study

In 2001 the September 11 attacks happened. These were a series of suicide attacks against the United States of America in the New York and Washington areas. The iconic moment being when terrorists hijacked four passenger planes and flew two into the north and south towers of the world trade centre in New York. As well as this the third plane crashed into the pentagon and the fourth was destined for the United States Capitol Building in Washington however passengers tried to overcome the hijackers and forced the plane to crash into a field near Pennsylvania. Due to this tragedy

“nearly 3,000 people from all over the world died in the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. They Included 67 British people and around 300 New York fire-fighters. About 260 passengers and crew on board the four crashed aeroplanes were also killed”


Many believe these attacks to be the rise of citizen journalism and the beginning of the digital age, e.g.

“September 11 was a wakeup call to us all on how we should be getting information. September 11 changed the Internet and the way we search and need information. People were reaching out and posting their own stories on web sites that we now would call a blog”


Back to 2001 before the events of 9/11 and citizen journalism didn’t really exist. We didn’t have camera phones or social media. Shooting and uploading video of a news event was considered a specialist skill along with html and website construction. Fast forward to 2012 and everybody uses social media. Now anybody can create a website or have a blog. People would rather get their news from social networking sites such as Facebook statuses or tweets. As stated by Stuart Allen,

“This invitation to “be the media,” and thus to challenge traditional definitions of what counted as “news” as well as who qualified as a “journalist,” was very much consistent with the animating ethos of the Internet. Hundreds of refashioned websites began to appear over the course of September 11, making publicly available eyewitness accounts, personal photographs, and in some cases video footage of the unfolding disasters”

(Allan, Stuart (2002) Reweaving the Internet: Online news of September 11, cited in Zelizer, Barbie and Allan, Stuart (2002) Journalism after 9/11, Psychology Press, p.127).

Even news organisations are using social media to cover information they were previously unable to and collect information through comment boards, all in an effort to collate user generated content to build on or create new stories, e.g.

“Citizens, not reporters, were our information source besides the traditional news media. People were looking for ways to connect after this tragic event. Unfortunately, this was a void in the ‘new media’”


In 2001 we would have just discovered email and be confirming stories via landline. The methods of information collection we use today did not exist and were in their very early stages, e.g.

“Many of the major features of how we live, communicate, and get our information today did not exist — or at least were in their very nascent stages — in 2001. The entire Internet had 500 million users and something like 3 million public websites. HTML 4.0, which gave the web its basic features, had just entered its final published state. Facebook and Gmail wouldn’t launch for another three years; Twitter for another five. Google was not yet a recognizable verb. Another difference: No one at school had cell phones, let alone wireless Internet access.”


When the events of 9/11 happened, it was a media frenzy that catapulted citizen journalism into the limelight when ordinary people could capture and report on stories that journalists couldn’t, e.g.

“Smart Phones, Social Media, Mobile Apps were all discovered because someone wanted to fill a need. Maybe 9/11 was the reason because we saw the potential of the Internet. Unfortunately, the Internet could not deliver the results it could today. Ten years taught us that we want information and we want it now”



Citizen Journalism – A Literature Review

Looking at relevant pieces of literature it is clear that there are some who believe that citizen journalism has become an advantage and there are others who believe that citizen journalism is a disadvantage. Barbie Zelizer’s book, ‘Journalism after 9/11’, talks about how the events of 9/11 have begun to recast the expectations of journalism in modern day news, particularly in the Western world.

I agree that this was a clear example of how a tragic event made us realise the void in our lives and that we need to change in the future, in this case it is referring to citizen journalism. Zelizer also agree that 9/11 sparked the development of citizen journalism. Although it existed it was barely noticed in an age before technology, as she states

“September 11 has decisively transformed the everyday contexts within which many journalists routinely operate”

(Zelizer, Barbie and Allan, Stuart (2002) Journalism after 9/11, Psychology Press, p.1).

This backs up my research into the event as it goes on to compare what the journalistic world was like before 2001 compared to after the events of 9/11, to start it states

“News organisations-together with their sources-lacked a readymade ‘script’ to tell their stories, a frame to help them and their audiences comprehend the seemingly incomprehensible”

and goes on to compare this to today’s media after events like 9/11 shaped citizen journalism and developed it into the forefront of news, e.g.

“From the perspective of today, of course it is easier to discern the emergence and embodiment of the responses they crafted and the interests they sought to advance”

(Zelizer, Barbie and Allan, Stuart (2002) Journalism after 9/11, Psychology Press, p.1).

However one thing that is not certain anyone is the future. Looking at the way citizen journalism has changed over time the one thing that is particularly clear is that we cannot know what the future will hold for journalism, as Zelizer says

“Far less clear, however, is what their lasting impact will be for journalism in a post-September 11 world”

(Zelizer, Barbie and Allan, Stuart (2002) Journalism after 9/11, Psychology Press, p.1).

Aaron Barlow goes on to say how he believes that citizen journalism is putting the power of the news back into the hands’ of the public and citizen journalists have become a necessity due to the lack of coverage by professionals. He says that journalists have kept their selves distant from the issues they cover and that this distance is becoming greater causing a need and reliance on public journalism, e.g.

“Journalists have come to see themselves as simply stenographers, taking note of events and presenting them to those not able to be present. As such, they have also decided that they have to present both sides of any issue if they are reporting dispassionately, no matter how absurd one side may be”

(Barlow, Aaron (2007) The rise of the blogosphere, Greenwood Publishing Group, p. 139).

He goes on to agree that any previous void of journalism missing in our life has now been filled or is in the process of filling as he agrees with Zelizer to the point of saying that 9/11 made us aware of this and it has changed ever since, e.g.

“Earlier it wasn’t possible for the average citizen to be involved in this process. Technology was unavailable, and distance was great. Those barriers have been erased and with them (in some eyes) has gone any necessity for traditional professional and commercial journalism”

(Barlow, Aaron (2007) The rise of the blogosphere, Greenwood Publishing Group, p.141).

This is all clear evidence to state that journalism has taken a change, if not over the past decade, it at least changed due to citizen journalism and it was essentially created as it developed from professional to citizen status. The rise of citizen journalism also makes it clear that it is actually separate from professional journalism despite developing from it, as it is stated by Barlow that

“the citizen journalists believe that, through utilization of internet possibilities both for research and for publication, they can sidestep the journalism profession altogether, at the same time getting around the commercial considerations that drive so much of contemporary news media and that encroach on the public sphere”

(Barlow, Aaron (2007) The rise of the blogosphere, Greenwood Publishing Group, p.141).

The rise of the digital age began to take hold and news organisations realised that they had to use the internet to satisfy the public needs however where the traditional journalists failed by simply transferring their work online, citizen journalists thrived in a new online environment full of possibilities.

As I have referred to in other pieces of literature throughout my research it is clear the majority back up citizen journalism as an aid and an advantage as it has developed in the past decade however there are disadvantages that cannot be overlooked which will be discussed in the findings.

How Can We Tell The Nature Of The Citizen Journalist Has Changed? – Methodology

To research into the change of citizen journalism I have carried out interviews with experts from both sides of the arguments so that I have the views and opinions of professional journalists as well as the views of citizen journalist groups to gain a multifaceted view of the issue.

As well as this I have conducted an analysis of five news events over the past decade as a form of case studies, and will be looking at the way citizen journalism was alive at the time and how it was used by the professionals and the citizen journalists. I will then be comparing and assessing how this form of journalism has developed as the years have gone by, developing from something that required a professional and knowledge to your everyday citizen being more newsworthy.

The case studies I will be looking at are as follows:

  • (2001) 9/11 terrorist attacks
  • (2005) London bombings
  • (2010) Student protests
  • (2011) London riots
  • (2012) Hurricane Sandy

The Nature Of The Citizen Journalist Has Changed

I am going to research into how the nature of citizen journalists has changed and now anybody with a phone can be a journalist.

I believe citizen journalism has developed over time and I am going to look into how the nature of citizen journalists has changed and how the citizen journalist is no longer skilled and technically knowledgeable compared to somebody with the ability to just use their mobile phone.

This has led to a number of research questions which stem from the hypothesis such as:

  • When did the phrase citizen journalism become common? – They are a product of the digital age and the term had to start somewhere.
  • What were people producing in 2001 that was called citizen journalism? – Before we used social media what kind of data was being produced and used by news organisations and people claiming to be citizen journalists.
  • How does citizen journalism compare now in huge events e.g. Hurricane Sandy compared to ones of the past e.g. 9/11? – There has been a development over time of the term citizen journalist which needs to be analysed to see how time has taken its toll.
  • How do other factors such as price of technology affect the citizen journalist? – A smaller factor but one that has an effect compared to the power and money of news organisations.
  • What is a citizen journalist? – There are many different definitions and it is a hard term to fully define.
  • What are the pros and cons of citizen journalism? – There are two sides to the term which need to be analysed to discover if citizen journalism is to be considered an advantage or disadvantage in modern days news reporting.

Where Did Citizen Journalism Come From?

A big question that arises is where did citizen journalism stem from?

It had to be created somewhere and many believe it to have risen from the tragic event of 9/11 and the evolution of the digital age that we now live in.

With the speed of the internet and newer technologies developing every day, the everyday person has the ability to capture the news and report it.

Suddenly it seems that the professional journalists lack the ability to report the news as efficiently as this new breed of competition, possibly due to an older generation still within news organisations.

Reporters are unable to act quickly enough to accurately and extensively cover an event and this has created a debate about the worth of citizen journalists and whether they are a positive or negative affect on journalism.

I believe that there are many events that compare how we see citizen journalism and show how it has developed that need to be analysed to really grasp how it has changed within the past decade in particular.

Social Media – Embrace It Or Get Left behind

Social media is a popular term used these days, a term that would not have been used a decade ago and would have been relatively unknown. Twitter and Facebook did not exist, we didn’t have YouTube and the internet was just coming into popular use. Thus began the digital age and now you’ll be hard pressed to find somebody who doesn’t have a Twitter account let alone not know what it is.

Back in 2001 before the events of 9/11, before camera phones and social media really rose up citizen journalism didn’t really exist, it required specialist skills to take and upload video of a news event. People like business men who were specially trained in using html and were web savvy users able to create their own websites.

Fast forward to 2012 and everybody uses social media, anybody can create a website or have a blog in the digital age. Now news is instantly confirmed via mobile apps or we can check Facebook status’ or tweets whereas before we would have had to email or call via a landline. As well as this, news organisations now use social media to better cover information they were unable to then, calling on the masses for their input via UGC.

“The story is simple: Many of the major features of how we live, communicate, and get our information today did not exist — or at least were in their very nascent stages — in 2001. The entire Internet had 500 million users and something like 3 million public websites. HTML 4.0, which gave the web its basic features, had just entered its final published state. Facebook and Gmail wouldn’t launch for another three years; Twitter for another five. Google was not yet a recognizable verb. Another difference: No one at school had cell phones, let alone wireless Internet access.”

(Rosen, 10 years Can Be a Long Time: The World Wide Web on 9/11)

The rise of social media has come about hand in hand with traditional news however there are some who fear the digitizing of news.

“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.”

(Nic Newman (2009) The rise of social media and its impact on mainstream journalism)

The thing about Twitter is there is a flow of false information for example the deaths of numerous celebrities, which can be so easily taken in, not just by the gullible but by credible news organisations hoping to break the story first and trusting the first bit of information they see on Twitter.

However I feel that social media is an aid for journalism despite its’ downfalls. I believe that the way it breaks news through trending topics and collating all the news in one ideal location has created a greater interest in news through a great online discussion and the spreading need to share information with others. Social media is enabling live coverage of events such as hurricane Sandy which allows bursts of information as it is happening before leading people to the in-depth piece they will want to read.

Social media is just the beginning and something we are embracing. It will continue to rise and rise with journalism and ten years from now who knows just how we will be communicating and getting our news. It will evolve to fill the void just like social media did in the past decade and we can only wait for what the future holds.