Tagged: Media

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 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.

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.


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.


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 – 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’”


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”


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”


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”


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”


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’”


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”


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.’”


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”


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”


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.

Citizen Journalism – Student Protests Case Study

In 2010 in the UK, thousands of hours of mobile phone footage was uploaded onto YouTube and social media networks of the student protests over increased tuition fees for university students. In November 2010 there was a series of demonstrations against planned spending cuts to further education and an increase in the cap on tuition fees. Students felt the cuts were excessive and broke campaign promises made by politicians. However the protests turned violent as

“The scale of the London protest defied expectations, with an estimated 50,000 turning out to vent their anger at government plans to raise tuition fees while cutting the state grant for university teaching”


The rise of citizen journalism through social media came through this event and was crucial when used in the organisation of the protest, e.g.

“Using Facebook and Twitter to organize protest marches and occupations of university buildings, and to debate the issues, allowed for much more fluid and rapid organization to emerge than would be possible going through “official” channels. It also meant that the movement could reach out beyond the university student body to include school pupils, parents, university staff and the wider public”


There became a constant information flow on the protest, kept up to the minute by protesters using Twitter on their phones to report where they were and what was happening. As the police attempted to contain certain locations, word spread to the protesters to avoid these problems using this information. Although police had access to these media channels they could not act quickly enough, e.g.

“While police and authorities also had access to the Twitter feeds, Facebook pages and Google maps created by protesters, the speed with which protesters were able to manoeuvre and the distributed nature of participation meant that authorities could not effectively respond to protests via these channels”


This gives evidence that the younger generation were more skilled at using forms of citizen journalism as they grew up in the ‘digital age’.

These protests were an example of how citizen journalism adds to a subject already reported on by the main stream media, e.g.

“While the protests received extensive news coverage on TV, online and in newspapers, digital media enabled students to directly reach a much wider public, providing their own account of events and articulating the issues in their own words”


and getting these messages to the public became an important part of the protester’s cause. Mainstream reporting only focused on the violence of students during the protests but the forms of citizen journalism that came to light showed events that were ignored by these media organisations such as the Jody McIntyre incident, a student who was pulled out of his wheelchair by police. This was photographed by protesters and information was circulated throughout social media before being picked up by the BBC, leading to a controversial TV interview. It is stated that

“this kind of “citizen journalism” can have an impact on the mainstream news agenda, but more importantly it also allowed the protesters’ to communicate their own, broader agenda to the wider public”


The way social media was used has revolutionised the way digital media affects democracy and

“allowed more genuine democratic participation than would be possible through the more formalized avenues of representative elective government or bureaucratic trade unions”


This is all evidence that citizen journalism has become a way for people to make their voices heard against traditional forms of political participation and is leading to it being an option for everyone, e.g.

“the movement lives on in both physical and virtual networks, blog discussions, email lists, Twitter feeds and Facebook groups open to participation from all, and determined to carry on making their voices heard until politicians listen”


Citizen Journalism – London Bombings Case Study

On July 7 2005 the London bombings happened when a series of suicide attacks were used to target citizens using the public transport at rush hour in London. Four bombs were set off across London, three across underground trains throughout the city and one on a double decker bus. This attack lead to the death of the bombers, also

“killing 52 people and injuring more than 770”


This tragedy led people to believe this was the start of the “accidental journalist” which has been defined as

“the people who find themselves in a situation they did not expect, but feel the need to share it on their blog, with a news web site or on Twitter”


This was a time when more people had camera phones and could capture the real time chaos as it unfolded, which the media could not and people started to realise the impact of citizen journalism. According to the BBC they received 22,000 emails and text messages about the London bombings. 300 photos were sent into the BBC from witnesses at the scene with 50 of these being within the hour of the first bomb being set off. As well as the photos, the media received several video clips, e.g. “7 July 2005 marked a turning point for the media. That was the day the phenomenon of

“user-generated content” (UGC) or “citizens’ journalism” came into its own in Britain, as members of the public took over the roles of photographers and news correspondents”


As these events happened underground the media were far from the action and unable to get to the scene as fast as somebody already there. They would not have been able to accurately cover the actual story along with the details involved, unable to deliver them to the public. The photos enabled it to be confirmed that a bomb had gone off rather than a power surge as was first suggested. Videos sent in from passengers on the tubes actually led the BBC’s six o’clock news bulletin,

“the first time such material had been deemed more newsworthy than the professionals’ material”


This marked an important step in the rise of citizen journalism as for the first time on a public scale, citizen’s reports were considered more important than the professionals.

Two weeks after there were several more bombings attempted but the public already knew what was expected of them and this has developed even more. This led to news organisations taking on staff to deal with user generated content. At the time of the event, the BBC’s editor for interactivity, Vicky Taylor, said:

“We now get 10,000 e-mails a day and 200 pictures a week, just as a matter of course – and when there is a big story it goes through the roof”


According to the BBC this led to them publish up to ten times more content than before, although it was criticised for possibly leading to citizens putting themselves in danger to get the best content. This criticism was by journalists whereas citizen journalists admired the way it democratised the media, taking power away from a select few. Citizen journalism was seen as a powerful tool at this time however some feel it is too difficult to define, e.g.

“’citizens’ journalism’ is too vague and all-encompassing, since many of the people submitting photos, information and views do not see themselves as journalists at all”


This is evidence that citizen journalism is seen as something on the rise and the everyday person is doing more, leaving the professional aspect of the term to fade.

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”