New Opportunities for the Citizen Journalist

Technology has played an important role as distributor of newsworthy material. “The rise of the Internet as a popular medium has led to a substantial increase in available channels for information and entertainment, among other purposes” (Bruns & Highfield, 2012).
The emergence of the internet has changed the way our society delivers and consumes information. The internet and social media in particular have played an important role in giving us the tools to be able to tweet, post, and blog what we feel is ‘newsworthy content.’ The internet and technology convergence have given us the opportunity to access information minute by minute, with the creation of smartphone devices making this even more possible. The advancement of technology through such devices has enabled us to become our own journalist, allowing us to analyze and deliver information 24/7 globally: this trend is commonly known as Citizen Journalism.
Citizen Journalism is defined as playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing, and disseminating news and information. Commonly known “websites like WordPress, Twitter, Blogger, Storify, Reddit, and Facebook are among the more popular websites that give an opportunity for citizen journalism and social activism” (Brown, 2012). Furthermore, the internet and social media have greatly enhanced our ability to promote content in real time. Not only do these websites give us the opportunity to share thoughts or articles that we have written, but, as well, they allow others to promote, comment on, and/or share their thoughts on what was written (e.g. blogs are commonly known for this form of Citizen Journalism).

The popularity of Citizen Journalism has encouraged me to participate in producing my own stories (to share with the general public, friends, family, etc). For instance, recently I produced a small video segment that featured the topic of Women in Sport and the Media. The news segment showcased the issues and concerns pertaining to female athletes in the sporting industry. This segment featured interviews of female Athletes and administrative staff at Brock University sharing their concerns on the subject. Social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook were very essential to me in promoting my work because they allowed me to use their tools to share/distribute my product to a wide audience with a click of a button.

Women in Sport
B247 female athletes and the media

However, the remaining question is “news sources themselves have bias, how would an individual person’s account of an event have any credibility” (Bruns & Highfield, 2012)? There have been many debates over the role and relevance of the Citizen Journalist as being part of a new cult of amateurs (Bruns & Highfield, 2012). In my opinion, I feel the emergence of the internet and technology has given us new opportunities to participate more directly in Citizen Journalism – most of the time we are journalists and don’t even know. For instance, telling your friend updates on the most recent ‘gossip’ at work, or providing a play-by-play of the Toronto Maple Leaf game that your friend missed can be considered an act of informal journalism. The internet and the convergence of technology have given us accessibility to media 24/7. However, I think the biggest concern for professional journalists today is whether Citizen Journalism would replace the mainstream journalism industry.

This might be a downside to Citizen Journalism, specifically relating to the credibility issue cited by Bruns and Highfield. For instance, professional journalists have a responsibility to research and report on facts, not rumours or opinions, which is an important distinction between a professional journalist and citizen journalist. With that said, if media publications misinterpret information they are targets for libel law suits, and the media company they work for would have to respond with their wallets and a team of lawyers to act on their behalf. In contrast, if an average and untrained citizen writes a defamatory statement about an individual with no basis in fact, this could potentially cause irreparable damage to an individual’s reputation and career, with little or no repercussion to the untrained writer (i.e. no resources to be sued for). Secondly, social media outlets such as Twitter can also promote mis-information even faster than conventional media publications because information is being sent with just a click of a button. As an example, think about the recent tweets of the White House explosions and Obama’s injury, followed by the dramatic drop in the stock market. This showcases the downside to citizen journalism.

In my opinion, blogs are a good substitute for opinion columns printed in newspapers, but not for real news reporting.

References

Bruns, A. & T. Highfield. (2012). Blogs, Twitter, and breaking news: The produsage of citizen journalism. pre-publication draft on personal site [Snurb.info]. Published in: Lind, R. A. ed. (2012). Produsing Theory in a Digital World: The Intersection of Audiences and Production. New York: Peter Lang. p15-32.

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