Citizen Journalism: the good, the bad, and the ugly

Citizen journalism is a popular form a journalism that has spread like wildfire across the globe, and can be seen within various media outlets.  Citizen journalism allows anyone, regardless of his or her training in professional journalism, to create and share media using modern technological tools. Citizen journalism has been made possible through new forms of technology and distribution platforms that allow anyone to tell the newsworthy stories, which were once reserved for professional journalists.

The term, “citizen journalism,” itself is controversial, as many journalists defend the notion that only professionally trained reporters can truly be journalists, while others consider this journalistic genre a beneficial part of living in the Information Society.  Supporters of citizen journalism praise its development, claiming it adds a richer and quicker dimension to journalism and current affairs.  Regardless of your stance on citizen journalism, we can all agree on one thing: journalism will never be the same again.

The Good: 

Citizen journalism opens the mic to people who have views that contrast harshly from those of mainstream media. By allowing anyone to be a journalist, citizen journalism lets us learn new perspectives and ideas that we would otherwise never gain exposure to. Therefore, it serves as a platform for us to learn from, and gives us a platform to express our opinions from.

Additionally, citizen journalism empowers local communities, by encouraging individuals, who may have previously been excluded from essential information, to communicate information to advance their personal goals. This, in turn, may help improve local economies, and lead to sharing vital information to more secluded areas of the world. Now, anyone is able to take part in telling stories.

TEDx talk illustrating how citizen journalism allows Pakistani youth to instigate change.

The Bad:

Although professional journalists receive training in how to look at both sides of a news story prior to publishing a report, citizen journalists never receive this training.  For this reason, there is the possibility that citizen journalism reports may be littered with bias and unreliable information. Media consumers often do not know how to distinguish opinion from fact, and may believe what they read in the uninformed and biased reporting of untrained citizen journalists.

Additionally, citizen journalism may lead journalists to put themselves in risky situations in order to report the extraordinary stories that traditional journalists may not have exposure to.  On June 20th of 2009, a citizen journalist submitted a video to Youtube (no longer available) that showed a young Iranian woman being brutally killed for protesting on the streets of Tehran.  The individual taking this video was motivated to show the rest of the world the terrifying cost of the demonstrations, but he clearly put himself in extreme danger while doing so.

It is clear that citizen journalism isn’t going to be leaving anytime soon. Although many people feel that this form of journalism enhances the field, others see it as a threat to the future of journalism. Now that you’ve heard about a few of the main pros and cons, what’s your stance on citizen journalism?

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