Citizen Journalism: A bittersweet saga?
Have you ever been caught in one of those deadly fights with your mom where she asks you to try and do her work for just a day?
Well, I have and I can tell you from experience that those words are far scarier than Stephen King’s ‘The Shining’ (iykyk)
Role reversals might sound good in theory or even in a movie like Freaky Friday, but in practice, they turn out to be pretty opposite!
And what better way to understand complex role reversals than citizen journalism.
What is citizen journalism?
Citizen journalism is known by a lot of different names, collaborative media, participatory journalism, democratic journalism, and so on and so forth.
But all the terms point to the same idea: when the public starts playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing, and disseminating news and information.
Simply put, this means that ordinary people like you and me have the freedom to share whatever information we want, wherever we want, whenever we want!
No, Citizen journalism is not a recent phenomenon! It has always existed.
Sometimes in the form of your gossipy neighbors who spread the news faster than fire, but generally (more appropriately) in difficult situations like the coverage of natural disasters or protests.
Then why is citizen journalism such a hot potato now, you ask?
Well, of course, because of social media.
Social media and Citizen Journalism
When everybody is a journalist, nobody really is!
People only realised this once they were confronted with a big messy experiment in how humans produce, consume, and disseminate information. This time, not only theoretically but also practice on social media in the form of UGC (or user-generated content).
Sure, the digital transformation gave rise to something that was never done before — the freedom to bypass information gatekeepers, of course!
But was it worth it?
Well, these instances say otherwise.
- Fake photos made online rounds during the Asian tsunami in 2004.
- A fake report of actor Morgan Freeman’s passing went viral on Facebook and the page dedicated to him as a tribute by his fans accrued over a million likes.
- Another fake report about Justin Bieber who shaved his head following cancer detection went viral as well and became a major Twitter trend in the US.
All the aforementioned news was put forth by citizen journalists rushing to rip the context of the news and quickly retweeting through their huge, hyperactive networks.
But this is not about the merits or demerits of citizen journalism.
The real question is, is it reliable?
Citizen Journalism: The reliability factor
How to become a citizen journalist: Tutorial 101
Welcome to the part where we tell you how to become a citizen journalist. And no, it does not require three years of life for a degree. All you need is:
- A smartphone (Yes, iPhones would work. No need to show off.)
- Decent writing skills (Or just writing skills, TBH)
3. Most Importantly, a Social Media Account! (and the ability to hit the share button ASAP!)
Citizen journalists might vouch for providing eyewitness and first-hand accounts, being the fastest channel for breaking news, and giving real-time information about their own community. But in doing so, other things like news judgment, verifying facts, vetting sources, and aggregation (which are the fundamental notions of journalism, btw) get pushed aside.
Sure, media freedom is important but so is truth and accuracy.
Imagine a world where there are no media outlets, no formal body to cover the happenings around the world.
In such a situation, would you be willing to completely rely on citizen journalists on social media as your news source? Such a pickle, we know.
Hmm, you think about that and till then, hit that clap button!