Tagged: technology

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 – 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”


Citizen Journalism – A Literature Review

Looking at relevant pieces of literature it is clear that there are some who believe that citizen journalism has become an advantage and there are others who believe that citizen journalism is a disadvantage. Barbie Zelizer’s book, ‘Journalism after 9/11’, talks about how the events of 9/11 have begun to recast the expectations of journalism in modern day news, particularly in the Western world.

I agree that this was a clear example of how a tragic event made us realise the void in our lives and that we need to change in the future, in this case it is referring to citizen journalism. Zelizer also agree that 9/11 sparked the development of citizen journalism. Although it existed it was barely noticed in an age before technology, as she states

“September 11 has decisively transformed the everyday contexts within which many journalists routinely operate”

(Zelizer, Barbie and Allan, Stuart (2002) Journalism after 9/11, Psychology Press, p.1).

This backs up my research into the event as it goes on to compare what the journalistic world was like before 2001 compared to after the events of 9/11, to start it states

“News organisations-together with their sources-lacked a readymade ‘script’ to tell their stories, a frame to help them and their audiences comprehend the seemingly incomprehensible”

and goes on to compare this to today’s media after events like 9/11 shaped citizen journalism and developed it into the forefront of news, e.g.

“From the perspective of today, of course it is easier to discern the emergence and embodiment of the responses they crafted and the interests they sought to advance”

(Zelizer, Barbie and Allan, Stuart (2002) Journalism after 9/11, Psychology Press, p.1).

However one thing that is not certain anyone is the future. Looking at the way citizen journalism has changed over time the one thing that is particularly clear is that we cannot know what the future will hold for journalism, as Zelizer says

“Far less clear, however, is what their lasting impact will be for journalism in a post-September 11 world”

(Zelizer, Barbie and Allan, Stuart (2002) Journalism after 9/11, Psychology Press, p.1).

Aaron Barlow goes on to say how he believes that citizen journalism is putting the power of the news back into the hands’ of the public and citizen journalists have become a necessity due to the lack of coverage by professionals. He says that journalists have kept their selves distant from the issues they cover and that this distance is becoming greater causing a need and reliance on public journalism, e.g.

“Journalists have come to see themselves as simply stenographers, taking note of events and presenting them to those not able to be present. As such, they have also decided that they have to present both sides of any issue if they are reporting dispassionately, no matter how absurd one side may be”

(Barlow, Aaron (2007) The rise of the blogosphere, Greenwood Publishing Group, p. 139).

He goes on to agree that any previous void of journalism missing in our life has now been filled or is in the process of filling as he agrees with Zelizer to the point of saying that 9/11 made us aware of this and it has changed ever since, e.g.

“Earlier it wasn’t possible for the average citizen to be involved in this process. Technology was unavailable, and distance was great. Those barriers have been erased and with them (in some eyes) has gone any necessity for traditional professional and commercial journalism”

(Barlow, Aaron (2007) The rise of the blogosphere, Greenwood Publishing Group, p.141).

This is all clear evidence to state that journalism has taken a change, if not over the past decade, it at least changed due to citizen journalism and it was essentially created as it developed from professional to citizen status. The rise of citizen journalism also makes it clear that it is actually separate from professional journalism despite developing from it, as it is stated by Barlow that

“the citizen journalists believe that, through utilization of internet possibilities both for research and for publication, they can sidestep the journalism profession altogether, at the same time getting around the commercial considerations that drive so much of contemporary news media and that encroach on the public sphere”

(Barlow, Aaron (2007) The rise of the blogosphere, Greenwood Publishing Group, p.141).

The rise of the digital age began to take hold and news organisations realised that they had to use the internet to satisfy the public needs however where the traditional journalists failed by simply transferring their work online, citizen journalists thrived in a new online environment full of possibilities.

As I have referred to in other pieces of literature throughout my research it is clear the majority back up citizen journalism as an aid and an advantage as it has developed in the past decade however there are disadvantages that cannot be overlooked which will be discussed in the findings.

The Nature Of The Citizen Journalist Has Changed

I am going to research into how the nature of citizen journalists has changed and now anybody with a phone can be a journalist.

I believe citizen journalism has developed over time and I am going to look into how the nature of citizen journalists has changed and how the citizen journalist is no longer skilled and technically knowledgeable compared to somebody with the ability to just use their mobile phone.

This has led to a number of research questions which stem from the hypothesis such as:

  • When did the phrase citizen journalism become common? – They are a product of the digital age and the term had to start somewhere.
  • What were people producing in 2001 that was called citizen journalism? – Before we used social media what kind of data was being produced and used by news organisations and people claiming to be citizen journalists.
  • How does citizen journalism compare now in huge events e.g. Hurricane Sandy compared to ones of the past e.g. 9/11? – There has been a development over time of the term citizen journalist which needs to be analysed to see how time has taken its toll.
  • How do other factors such as price of technology affect the citizen journalist? – A smaller factor but one that has an effect compared to the power and money of news organisations.
  • What is a citizen journalist? – There are many different definitions and it is a hard term to fully define.
  • What are the pros and cons of citizen journalism? – There are two sides to the term which need to be analysed to discover if citizen journalism is to be considered an advantage or disadvantage in modern days news reporting.

Where Did Citizen Journalism Come From?

A big question that arises is where did citizen journalism stem from?

It had to be created somewhere and many believe it to have risen from the tragic event of 9/11 and the evolution of the digital age that we now live in.

With the speed of the internet and newer technologies developing every day, the everyday person has the ability to capture the news and report it.

Suddenly it seems that the professional journalists lack the ability to report the news as efficiently as this new breed of competition, possibly due to an older generation still within news organisations.

Reporters are unable to act quickly enough to accurately and extensively cover an event and this has created a debate about the worth of citizen journalists and whether they are a positive or negative affect on journalism.

I believe that there are many events that compare how we see citizen journalism and show how it has developed that need to be analysed to really grasp how it has changed within the past decade in particular.

Citizen Journalism – What is it?

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.

Local Newspapers – A Waste Of Time

Local newspapers are boring and increasingly becoming a waste of time. Obviously it varies from town to town but in my experience local news has never really interested me and it is something that is often over-looked by most people, many choosing to get their news online whether it is local or national.

Most local newspapers are distributed to houses freely in a desperate attempt to gain readers or even to keep their loyal readers. I believe the main readers of local newspapers are that of the older generation who have been around the area a long time and enjoy engaging with the happenings of their town. Although if the older generation were brought up with technology they too might find that they would rarely look at local news and only online if they were to.

“The biggest change to the local and national media landscape over the past two decades is the emergence of new technology. There is now much more choice for people using media – whether it is audio, video or text – as digital technologies and the internet offer alternatives to traditional media platforms.”

(Future for local and regional media – The Culture, Media and Sport Committee)

The rise of bloggers and social media has made local news redundant. Everybody knows what is happening in their town with a constant flow of updates from their local Facebook friends or the Twitterverse before any local newspaper can tell you what is happening. Because of this it makes the regular newspaper that is posted through the door just another bit of junk mail which is never looked at and eventually thrown away.

The fact is that there is no money in local news anymore. In Richard Jones, ‘What do we mean by local?’ he speaks about how he set up his own hyperlocal news website, Saddlesworth News. Although he was able to reach a significant number in terms of readership he found difficulty in persuading local advertisers to become involved with his online venture.

 “Most of the ads I did sell were to people who used the website as readers and had their own small online businesses”

(What do we mean by local? – Richard Jones)

Whether the local news is free or not there seems to be a major lack of money and a successful profit involved with producing it be it online or in traditional print. We cannot tell what will happen to local news but I feel it won’t be long until the traditional print of local newspapers becomes redundant and we use online if at all for our local news.