By Alyssa Martin
There is a new species of human beings that is evolving and does not show signs of slowing down. This species is called the “Citizen Journalists.” This growing trend can be attributed to the increasing availability of social media and smart phones. Theses days it seems as if anyone with a camera phone and internet access can be a reporter.
Some of the most recent examples of citizen journalism are in Egypt as protestors used their Twitter, Facebook and YouTube accounts to report the protests and gain support from around the world.
While citizen journalism is a trend that is growing rapidly as of late, it is not an entirely new concept. Poynter.org published an article in 2005 by Steve Outing titled, “The 11 Layers of Citizen Journalism.” Basically, Outing offers ways to incorporate citizen reporting in news media in a number of ways that include different levels of citizen involvement.
However, a recent article in The Huffington Post called, “Double-Edged Sword: Social Media’s Subversive Potential,” by Courtney C. Radsch, points out that the use of social media is not entirely beneficial, especially when dealing with potentially dangerous situations, such as the protests in Egypt.
“But social media are also a double-edged sword for activists and the Egyptian public at large. They’re important tools for circumventing government dominance of the media sector and restrictive freedom of association laws that prohibit NGOs from operating or groups from gathering and thus help shift the balance of power away from authoritarian governments. But these media also facilitate state surveillance because of their public nature and most people’s lack of familiarity with basic security settings on their social profiles, much less digital encryption or counter-censorship tools.”
Radsch makes a good point about citizen journalism: that it will never be professional journalism. So how should those in the professional journalism field react to this growing trend? Should they follow Outing’s example and try to bridge the gap and encourage more public participation? Or should they continue to stress the importance of professional journalism in terms of ethics and credibility, as well as safety?