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”
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”
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”
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”
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