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”
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