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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Citizen Journalism: Benefits or Consequences?



         Citizen journalism can easily be linked to mobile devices, because it is such a quick way to “journal” what is going on at that particular time. An individual can snap a picture, make a phone call, send a text, create a tweet, post a status, etc. These are all connections that spread news by word of mouth, creating this concept of citizen journalism. According to an article called, "7 Things You Should Know About Citizen Journalism", citizen journalism is defined as a “range of activities in which everyday people contribute information or commentary about news events”. With the creation of new media interfaces, such as our mobile devices, there are unlimited amount of way to broadcast your own “news”, even faster than actual news sites.
            Although citizen journalism may seem like a relatively new concept, it has actually been a process in the making, starting with the printing press, the telegraph, tape recorders, then there was television. Each of these new creations created a vast of opportunities for individuals to engage in journalism. It just so happens, that in our society today, we have many more interfaces to create and spread news, with just a touch of a couple buttons. The evolution of citizen journalism has shaped so much in our world today. It is obvious that a telegram message would take much longer to spread news, compared to a text we can send and then be received in just a few seconds. Not to mention, the use of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc that are all included on any smart phone. All of these social media sites allow people to become citizen journalists by giving them the opportunity to promote what they want, spreading news and sharing any other information that they want to disclose to others.
            According to an article, "Blogs and Citizen Journalism: The Effect on Our Culture" by Laura Riggo, citizen journalism can actually benefit traditional journalism. One particular example of this would be the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Bloggers were actually able to document the scene better than actual news outlets with cell phones. The viewers were first account witness’s to it and able to give insight to others from their point of view. Personally, I would enjoy this type of journalism more than just watching the news, because it makes it seem more personal coming from another ordinary individual, and not some big journalist.
            Another prime example of citizen journalism would be Occupy Wall Street. According to Harmon Lee in his article, "Citizen Journalism: Cell Phones help tell the story of Occupy Wall Street", the spread of word about this movement was attributed to citizen journalism. The participants and observers were able to personally document Occupy Wall Street with their cell phones, and then spread the word to others. In this article, there is a video documentation of the arrests, which spread across social media sites very quickly, thanks to a video by a mobile device. Could some of the Occupy Wall Street controversy be attributed to the use of citizen journalism?
            With this being said, there are the negative impacts of citizen journalism. Although it does allow people to voice their opinions and share interests with others, it can start controversies. It is hard to trust just any outlets and to distinguish between what is real news and what has been manipulated. It can be, “inaccurate, offensive, or otherwise lack credibility” (7 Things). Also, traditional news outlets try to not let their opinions in, but citizen journalism creates a bias, which can cause tension between the journalists and the viewers. Another concern is the fact that if we start to feel we can’t trust citizen journalism, then we start to also feel like we can’t rely on traditional journalism (Riggo). An example of this lack of credibility would be Matt Drudge’s Drudge Report, which is a conservative news website. Drudge has made false assumptions before, such as stating that Senator John Kerry had an affair with an intern, which was inaccurate, ruining his credibility. It has came to the point where we have to become skeptical on who to trust, who is a professional, and what news is real news and what is biased.
             The evolution of citizen journalism has its benefits and it’s negative effects. Mobile devices have defiantly contributed to the use of citizen journalism because we are connected to so many people in just a few clicks. We can reveal anything we would like at any given time. Right now I could send a picture to instagram, post a status, and send a tweet, and it would be broadcasted to over hundreds of people. It is incredible how such a small object connects us to so much. With that being said, there are so many opinions and stories that circulate, and you have to ask yourself sometimes what is true and what isn’t. The main difference is that traditional journalism does there homework before they state their information, and if they then are wrong, there are consequences. However, citizen journalism allows  more of an opinion based approach. Citizen journalism allows a vast of opportunities for those who wish to spread information, but what we need to focus on is credibility so we aren’t receiving wrong information. 

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