The Citizen Journalist.

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?

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5 responses to “The Citizen Journalist.

  1. Kelly Hendricks

    Although Outing makes a good point, I think the importance of professional journalism should be stressed when dealing with ethics (and safety).

  2. I do believe in the power of citizen journalism because it has the ability to bring to light aspects of national and international news that are sometimes not always readily available through more traditional forms of media – such as conflicts that occurred in the beginning of the Egypt conflict conflict. I do, however, think it is important to recognize that professional journalists are governed by specific ethical standards, and they hold themselves to a high standard than the average citizen reporter probably does. I would like to see a balance start to develop between both types of reporting because they each definitely have certain benefits.

  3. You both make good points. One thought I had about the advantage of citizen journalism was that it could encourage people to trust the media more. Or will people only trust reporters that are like themselves?

  4. ryanthomasaustin

    There has definitely been a trend towards more “citizen” journalism as FB and Twitter and other social networking sites have become more popular. However, although these “amateur” stories can be very well-done, I still think the pros do it better. I have yet to see an amateur story be as in-depth as some of the articles that come out of Time or Esquire or other similar, esteemed publications. Citizen journalism has its place, but it is doubtful that citizen journalism will replace professional journalism completely.

  5. That’s a comforting thought, or else we would be out of a job.

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