Citizen journalism is the concept of a single or group of citizens that regularly participate in journalistic activities such as discovering news, collecting and analyzing information, and sharing and publishing that information as a story or news report.
Citizen journalism introduces some controversial opinions between two conflicting groups: professional journalists versus others who respect the idea of average citizens reporting news. Many people believe that one day, citizen journalism will completely take over the journalism world, leaving behind traditional journalistic practices. This theory is exciting to some people but disappointing to others.
There are many pros and cons about the concept of citizen journalism. Below is a list of some of the most significant ones people seem to discuss:
There is a higher demand for citizen journalism now. This is due to “…technology having made it easier to access news than ever before, the demand for footage and coverage of events as they happen has increased”. People want information as fast as possible and the best way to give the people what they want is through citizen journalism. Now is the time for average citizens to take advantage of this journalist approach and help the community receive information fast.
Citizen journalists often express bias opinions. They are more likely to collect inaccurate information due to their lack of professionalism. They also struggle with fundamental skills such as telling a story without basing it off of their bias opinion. This limits viewers to how much accurate information they are actually taking in. For example, during the 2016 presidential campaign, people constantly posted articles on their social media platforms that supported their bias opinion, regardless if the information was accurate or not. A Harvard Kennedy School article explains that:
Citizen journalism requires the simplest tools for reporting. Citizen journalists often record their news using a smart phone or tablet attached to a tripod. Jefferson Graham, a technology columnist at USA TODAY explained that,“With a smartphone and a few key accessories, anyone can now be a citizen journalist and produce broadcast- quality results”. Modern applications like Facebook Live and Periscope are also used to broadcast citizen journalism.
Citizen journalists are not professionally trained in this field of work. Therefore, they are more likely to make mistakes when reporting news. For example, after the Boston Marathon bombing, citizen journalists reported their findings of the suspects, however, their accusations were incorrect, which essentially caused investigation set-backs and unnecessary issues for the innocent men who were accused.
In my opinion, the pros outweigh the cons. Citizen journalism can be very beneficial to a community. For example, Yelp is a great way to find restaurants based on the reviews and comments it receives from customers. I joined Yelp to see what it is like to be apart of the citizen journalism environment. I wrote a review for my favorite Italian restaurant in Barcelona called Piazze d’Italia. Just by writing a good review on Yelp, I potentially have the power to encourage others to try Piazze d’Italia as well.
Citizen journalism can go a long way. Once the minor cons are fixed, I believe it can have the power to be the best form of instant journalism.