Citizen journalism refers to any type of news gathering and reporting -- writing and publishing articles about a newsworthy topic, or posting photographs or video of a newsworthy event -- that is done by members of the general public rather than the professional news agencies commonly referred to as "mainstream media." Citizen journalism has been in existence at least since Thomas Paine wrote self-published pamphlets like Common Sense that stoked the fires of independence in 1776 [source: Glaser]. But any conversation about citizen journalism in the modern age is mostly a conversation about the transformative effect of the Internet on the democratization of information.
Before the Internet, only professional journalists had access to the technology and organizational infrastructure to publish their work to a large audience. If the average citizen wanted to contribute to the news cycle, he or she could write a letter to the editor or circulate a homemade newspaper or "zine" through the mail. But today, armed with a PC and a high-speed Internet connection, absolutely anyone can share newsworthy information and opinions with a worldwide audience.
New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen offers this definition of citizen journalism: "When the people formerly known as the audience employ the press tools they have in their possession to inform one another, that's citizen journalism [source: Rosen]." Thanks to technological innovations, these "press tools" now include desktop publishing software, digital cameras and video camcorders, and blogging software and social media Web sites for publishing material online.
Amateur journalists have been responsible for a number of notable "scoops" in the past decade. In 2004, a team of conservative bloggers exposed fraudulent documents used in a "60 Minutes" story about President George W. Bush's military service. The controversy, known as Rathergate, led to the firing of several CBS employees and tarnished the reputation of respected journalist Dan Rather, who left the network in 2006. Photos and videos shot by eyewitnesses during the the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, 2005 London Tube bombings and the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings also provided vivid imagery that brought those stories home [source: Mediabistro].
The rise of citizen journalism has been controversial, because it raises the question: what does it mean to be a "professional" journalist if everyone is a journalist? Critics of citizen journalism argue that real journalists, professional or amateur, adhere to certain standards like fact checking, naming sources, searching out opinions on both sides of an issue and avoiding libelous statements [source: Hogg]. You don't need to have a degree in journalism or carry press credentials to practice these principles, but publishing a personal opinion about a politician or posting a grainy cell phone video of a celebrity does not necessarily make you a journalist.
Interestingly, in the wake of mass budget cuts to U.S. newspapers, largely due to the rise of the Internet as a communications tool, mainstream media outlets have quickly (and somewhat ironically) moved to incorporate elements of citizen journalism into their news programs and publications. Cable news networks solicit viewer photos and videos of breaking news stories. Newspaper reporters write blogs and update Twitter accounts, inviting reader interaction and participation. After all, if the local paper doesn't have the staff to cover City Hall, then bloggers will step in to publicize issues that matter to local readers [source: Stverak].
Journalism is constantly struggling with the confidence of his audience, and to retain (or to return) positive reputation, requires adaptation to contemporary needs and demands of media consumers. These changes are imposed on their own, because of this multi-media age, people are in many ways involved in the media world with their comments, uploading photos and video clips. They are no longer just passive observers, but have the opportunity to be active creators and critics. Why then the media would not slightly opened the door a little more and allow entry into a whole new realm?
Citizen journalism is the dissemination of information by people who are not professional journalists. Citizens reporters do not do this kind of journalism because it is their job, but because of the way they want to improve society. Citizen journalism is the basis of democracy that encourages citizens to actively participate in social processes.
Jay Rosen, professor at NYU, and member of the Wikipedia advisory board, gives this definition of citizien journalism. “When the people formerly known as the audience employ the press tools they have in their possession to inform one another, that’s citizen journalism."
Here you can watch a video clip about this definition.
The development of information and communication technologies, especially the Internet, has led to the emergence of citizen journalism, which means the active role of citizens in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information. All citizens create and distribute them with the help of mobile phones, the Internet, i-pod, computer, etc. Thanks to the digital technology, citizen journalism is universally accessible and globally relevant, it becomes an important part of the content within the traditional media – both public and commercial. It has become an important corrections of official sources of information, it helped to create a real and objective view of the world.
When we look at the mass media, they are now mostly privately owned, and their main guide is profit. On the one hand, the media are financed by advertising, and something what usually happens is that advertisers and other factors largely influence the editorial policy. The development of technology has in many ways changed the mass media. This is primarily related to the emergence and development of the Internet, who first made that the popularity of other media declines, and then encourage the media to change and adapt their content. So today most newspaper companies have web sites, where you are able to read some of the free content from the print edition, or they have portal news. The development of the Internet has allowed newspapers to expand their ways to present content so that now they can in one place publish text, photos, videos, and immediately receive feedback from readers and the like.
As the Internet has expanded the possibilities of previous media, It also allow to ordinary people to express their opinion, and that opinion comes to millions of people worldwide. An important step happened during the late nineties, when began massive popularity of blogs. Blog is a type of website that allows users to write on a variety of topics, from intimate diaries to political commentary. Today the blog is category that most newspapers have on their own website.
YouTube has launched a special channel called YouTube Reporter’s center, where citizens are able to look at a number of video tutorials in which, by some of the leading experts in the field of journalism explaining how to do amateur journalism, ie. civic journalism. It is covered a number of topics, from finding ideas for stories, technical implementation, presenting stories and etc. Then is open YouTube Direct, a channel where media can download or order a few of the amateur journalism works, in which are involved some major media companies such as The San Francisco Chronicle, NPR, The Huffington Post and Politico.
At the last World Blog Expo, held in September this year, a first training was made, about citizen journalism, for which there was great interest. The fact is that people are increasingly able to actively participate in commenting on current social events. Although it seems that the journalists in this way lose their place, they are actually in a position to improve the quality of their work, thanks to this new type of competition.
Here you can find more about World Blog Expo http://nmxlive.com/2014-lv/
The Guardian has made a system that gives readers insight into the stories that journalists and editors are processed, but also invites them to their comments and suggestions participate in choosing the topics they would like to read. Through the columns ‘News Desk live’ readers can follow the daily blog where journalists expose and explain the reason for selecting a particular story, concerning which will accurately report and why, while all stakeholders are free to express their ideas and suggestions, to make the final product in the better quality. Users can contact the journalist via Twitter (#opennews). Also, under ‘You Tell Us’, readers everyday can comment and suggest ideas for topics news. While most of the media still prefer to close their doors for proposals, and they think how to charge content that is interest only for minority, examples such as the Guardian, which is a prestigious British newspaper, gives a glimmer of hope that journalists still exist primarily because of its audience.
In contemporary society, the role of the media in many ways are changing. Although citizen journalism in some cases is dismissed as unnecessary and too amateur, big media companies have no choice but to acknowledge and support it.
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