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.”
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.
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.
We are aware of the online revolution that has never happened but we are still waiting for it to fully take shape. Steen Stenson speaks about how much has actually changed in his post ‘The revolution that never happened’ saying “Who would have thought, back in the 1990’s, that by 2010, online newspapers would still be mainly about publishing written text to a mass audience?” and he has a point.
The majority of traditional print media has moved online or is in the process of moving but it’s not quite what we expected. Though I think could it be that our expectation of technology taking over is far too high? We over exaggerate massively in media such as films as to what life will be like in the future, according to ‘Back to the future’ we should all have hover boards by now.
With journalism I believe it’s a case of the older journalistic values that need to make way for the new and young technology wielding journalists if this slow evolution of online journalism is to become this revolution. For many, they thought the internet would be the end of journalism, however as Stenson says “the Internet will not kill journalism. It will change it, but perhaps not so radically as one would expect”.
Apparently so much has changed due to technology which is true to an extent however it could change so much more if new tech-savvy journalists, which grew up in a multimedia world, were enlisted to use their knowledge of the tools available to them and fully embraced online journalism. Twitter is a good example of technology on the rise with it being rare for a journalist to not be on Twitter these days but at the moment the only real difference between print and online journalist is what it always has been, words, compared to words with media.
I’ve always believed that if I want an in-depth and long informative piece I will look to traditional media but if I would prefer to watch a video to gain a different perspective I will look to multimedia. I don’t think that the online revolution will necessarily kill print but will work alongside it until we fully embrace technology.