Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Rise of the Citizen Journalist


            The role of the citizen journalist is ever prevalent in the new media landscape. New technologies have made journalism possible for the everyday common citizen. Video phones, iPhones, iPods; all have the ability to record moments as they occur--such as the case of the Afghan boy taking a photo of U.S. Marines (above). Once saved, the visual data can then be uploaded to the internet via youtube, facebook, myspace, blogger, or google+,  to be shared with the neighbor next door or the rest of the world. The possibilities, influence, and opportunities for the citizen journalist in the emerging landscape are endless.
            According to the Missouri group, citizen journalism is “news coverage by people who don’t work for commercial companies” (2011, p.7) Outlets for citizen journalism range from profitable to non-profit, but the main goal of a citizen journalist is “to cover communities and issues that even local newspapers and broadcast stations don’t reach” (Missouri Group, p.7).
            Opportunities within citizen journalism that come to mind especially with the passing of Hurricane Irene are the iWittness Weather reports given by the Weather Channel. “Weather Warriors” send in their video and photo coverage of current weather (usually severe) and the Weather Channel broadcasts the images nationally, including online. These citizens are contributing to the weather journalists effort by being the people out in the field reporting conditions back to the Weather Station.
            It is apparent that news gathering for the weather channel as well as main stream news has been changed.  “After the successful launching of the Web in the 1990’s, the rapid growth of blogs eased the passive audience to switch their role to active participants. Blogs hold a significant part in the realm of journalism, social networking, and especially citizen journalism” (Riaz, 2011, p.90 ). Citizens are no longer spoon-fed by mainstream media; they are launching themselves into stories and reporting back what they believe to be “free, diverse, and neutral voices on communication podiums”  (Riaz, 2011, p.90).
            So what does this mean for the professional journalist? Challenge. Citizen journalists present traditional professional journalists with the challenge of diversity. An Online News Association (2009) survey of online traditional journalists found “a notable number (31%) of respondents believed one of the biggest changes of the move online was the diversity of voices present” (Carpenter, 2010, p.1065).  The stories in large organizations lack diversity because of “the consolidation of traditional news media outlets” (Carpenter, 2010, p.1065).
            The diverse content at the organization level may be consolidating and declining because of “the increasing number of online competitors and declining profits” (Carpenter, 2010, p.1065). Especially in countries without a free press such as Iran, Zimbabwe, or Kenya, “bloggers, photo and video journalists can give underrepresented and underprivileged segments of society a voice and add to the media diversity” (Riaz, 2011, p.88).
            The journalist world has reached a fork in the road; a choice must be made. Professional journalists can either remain outdone by the diverse coverage of citizen journalism, or be aided by the “convergence” of their skills and the citizens coverage” such as in the case of the Weather Warriors (The Missouri Group, p.4). Either way, journalistic power has been placed in the hands of anyone who owns a camera and has access to the internet--the rise of the citizen journalists cannot be stopped.

Resources

Carpenter, S. (2010, November). A study of content diversity in online citizen
     journalism and online newspaper articles. New Media & Society, 12(7),
     1064-1084. doi:10.1177/1461444809348772
Riaz, S., & Pasha, S. A. (2011). Rose of citizen journalism in strengthening
     societies. FWU Journal of Social Sciences, 5(1), 88-103. Retrieved from
     http://www.ebscohost.com
The Missouri Group. (2011). News reporting and writing. Boston, MA: Bedford/St.
     Martin's.