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.
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”
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”
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”
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.