Citizen journalism is a term that has only come to light within the past decade and could not exist today without the everyday person.
It is a term that has developed as time has gone by from somebody that required skill and a knowledge of technology to anybody being able to become a citizen journalist.
It is difficult to accurately define the term ‘citizen journalism’ but it has been stated that it:
“can be very broadly defined as non-journalists doing the things that only journalists used to do: witnessing, reporting, capturing, disseminating”
(Kelly, John (2009) Red kayaks and hidden gold: the rise, challenge and value of citizen journalism, Reuters Institute, p.1).
The change in the citizen journalist with the addition of new media needs to be analysed as it has developed over time, in order to fully understand that the nature of the citizen journalist has indeed changed. The term ‘citizen journalist’ needs to be accurately defined and analysed as well as looking at the advantages and disadvantages and the implications that it has on the media.
Citizen journalism seems to be considered a hindrance by many however welcomed by many others. I’m all for a citizen journalist because I believe the practicality of it serves journalism for the better rather than for the worse. A journalist is a lonely figure that covers the events unfolding before them, the media is merely a sea of these journalists doing the same thing and pooling it together and citizen journalists fall into this pool along with what are considered to be professional journalists.
When the events of 9/11 happened, it was a media frenzy that catapulted citizen journalism into the lime light when ordinary people could capture and report on parts of the story that not all journalists could. I believe citizen journalism adds a wider berth and colour, gathering information that would not necessarily have been placed into the public eye otherwise, be it through a poll, blog or comment, user-generated content gives a story a multifaceted view rather than that of the journalist who wrote it. As John Kelly notes in Red Kayaks and Hidden Gold, “blogs are often seen as the symbol of citizen journalism and it is telling us that most US and UK newspapers eventually embraced a form many once thought was toxic”.
The issue with citizen journalism is the professionalism of it. A lot argue that to report a good story a journalist needs the skills they could only acquire with proper training however that is not to say that an ordinary person is not capable of objectively telling us the story. But a trained journalist will be a better journalist as they have a wider knowledge and skill base of the area that they are working in. 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.
Many will look at citizen journalism as untrustworthy as it lacks the ethical and professional legitimacy of a trained journalism and I think this is the case as shown by John Kelly, “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.” Although it can be argued all media is looked at this way in recent times and citizen journalism is possibly more trusted as it is seen as relatable to you or me.
For me, citizen journalism is needed as much as the professional journalists themselves in order to contribute to it but I do not think it will ever be something that will replace the professionals. UGC was a worry for newspapers when it first came on the scene but what the media is now realising is that citizen journalism, in all its forms, is not a threat but a help as said by John Kelly, “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”. To conclude, citizen journalism and professional journalism work best together, as a neutral version written with skill alongside an opinion that adds colour.