By: Dr. Idumange John
One central tendency of Journalism is to disseminate accurate and timely information from the news gatherer, news writers, and publishers to the consumers – (the end users). Since the end of journalism is to inform, educate and entertain the public, there is a new thinking that both citizen and Journalists can participate in explaining the changing role of the media and how the media can be used to develop society. It implies that the citizens should be active participants at work with Journalists that is when the audience employ the press tools and platforms at their disposal to disseminate information, it is citizens that are involved in Journalism. Citizen Journalism is made possible by the internet, which offers a less-expensive means of networking, interaction and participation.
Citizen Journalism supports the idea that everyday citizens should play a more active role in the news gathering and information dissemination. Sometimes referred to as grassroots journalism, the citizen journalist has been responsible for uploading pictures footages of celebrities; public officers behaving irresponsibly, accidents, terrorist attacks etc. In Citizen Journalism people with smart phones, I-pads, cameras ,Ipods and other gadgets obtain a news item, syndicate the contain via Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Ustream, Fliks, LinkedIn and other applications in the virtual world. Because of the instantaneous nature of citizen Journalism, some fondly refer to is as democratic, guerrilla or street Journalism. Citizen Journalists are often bloggers, who scoop stories or exposed doctored facts from mainstream media reports. Whereas some see it as a threat to Journalistic integrity, citizen Journalists believe that their methods hold news organizations to higher standards. It was the perceived threat that prompted Jenkins to say:
The term participant in my culture contrasts with older notions of passive media spectatorship. Rather than talking about media producers and consumers as occupying separate roles, we might now see in them as participants who interact with each other according to a new set of rules that one of us fully understands. Not all participants are equal.
One fundamental issue academics and Journalism professionals are trying to come to terms with is the technological changes underway in Journalism. There is growing concern about a paperless world. The question on the lips of many is: Do newspapers play a valuable role and are newspapers irreplaceable? Can the new media fill the gap when the newspapers are off the street? The threat is more lethal when a newspaper-less future has the potential of undermining the mainstream. This is the thinking of antagonists.
WHAT IS CITIZEN JOURNALISM?
Traditionally, Journalism has been about producing finished products by designated individuals and teams based on expertise, intelligence, and operating in a shared physical space. However technological advances show that changes that are taking place will change norms, contentions and ability of the audience to syndicate reports, photographs, videos and text messages which undermine the monopoly Journalists enjoyed traditionally. Under the new regime of citizen Journalism, anyone can do an act of Journalism. Palvik believes that because of globalization and empowerment that is the result of the internet; Journalists now need to think about a global audience, which not only reads but also writes, and comments on what is read.
Citizen Journalism or internet Journalism is the act of citizens playing the role of collecting, analysing and disseminating news and information that a decent democracy requires. Citizen journalism actually started after the 1988 United States Presidential election are countermeasures against the diminishing trust in the news media. At those times, there was widespread disillusionment with the commotional news organizations. The thinking then was that rather than been buffeted by the torrents of negative publicity and poor agenda –setting in favour of partisan interest, the citizens should decide the content and quality of the information that was disseminated.
Initially, Citizen Journalism was designed to promote the people. Forty-five percent of all editors surveyed by Pew Centre and the Associated Press Managing Editors agree that their newsrooms use the tools and techniques of citizen Journalism; sixty-six percent say they not only use the tools; they are also practitioners. Journalism that was engaging began to flourish to enable internet and networking technology such as weblogs; chartrooms, message boards units, and mobiles computing. During the 2004Presidential elections both the Democratic and Republican parties issued press credentials to citizen bloggers. In 2001 Themeparkinsider.com became the first online publication to win a major Journalism award from the Online News Association & Columbia Graduate Schools of Journalism.
Kolodzy (2006) provides a working definition of citizen journalism. He said Citizen Journalism
……can encompass blogs that represent commentary on the day’ events or blogs that serve as a community news postings. It can involves a wiki, in which a new item or commentary is posted any anyone can add to or edit It can be a podcast reviewing favourite groups on a local music scene. It can be a collaborative effort between a reporter and expert to write and report a story, or it can entail a niche group of people, such as office workers of homeless activists, who published news, information and insight about their world…
Citizen Journalism is therefore a new type of Journalism in which citizen can take advantage of because of its accessibility, low cost and its ability to redefine the concept of community on the internet. Prof. Alan Knight (2008) using language emblematic of participatory culture observed that Journalism paradigms are changing. Said he: Journalists were once defined by were they worked; in the newspapers, or radio and television stations, the internet promises everyone can be a publisher…. so who in the future should be called a Journalists?
Some scholars like Colin Lank Shear and Michelle Knobel have researched what they referred to as the shift from a physical industrial mind-set to a cyber-spatial, post-Industrial mind-set. They aver that the world has been changed in some fundamental ways as a result of people imagining and explaining new ways of doing things. They dissent new forms of literacy made possible by digital technologies’ such as blogging, uploading photos or sharing videos. This new media is collaborative, distributive and participatory in nature.
Recently, just as professional journalists depend upon blogs for eye witness accounts, hyper-local coverage, pro bono research and story Ideas, so are citizen Journalists heavily dependent on traditional Journalism. The limitations of citizen Journalists are that they do not have the resources or institutional support of professional Journalists. They do not have editors’ copy editors, readers and may be unaware of Journalistic code or ethics. They do not have foreign bureaus and most often they lack the time, training or resources to do original reporting. This is why most Citizen Journalists depend on commentary on and liking to stories by the mainstream press. Bloggers thus end up reinforcing mainstream content because they give their attention more too alternative viewpoints than traditional Journalists.
Some ardent mainstream Journalists argue that embracing citizen Journalism would diminish the authority of mainstream Journalism – that is to have an interaction “Conversation” with the public can only diminish the traditional media’s voice of authority says Fred Brown (2007). Jenkins holds that bloggers lack objectivity and are partisan but the challenge has been that objectivity is an unrealizable Idea in Journalism. But basically, there is a symbiotic relationship between citizen and mainstream Journalism in the news ecosystem. Their symbiosis is bettered by their relationship. Bloggers’ according to Gerlis can support the code of ethics applied in mainstream Journalism while mainstream Journalists should give more attention to accuracy, increasing verification of materials, emphasizing differentiation between facts and opinion, and safeguarding sources, Aluermaun (200) avers.
Knight (2008) found that academics are increasing turning attention to the blog environments and writing tools such as websites online publishing outfits and these blogs are exploding in popularly, sometime more popular than the burgeoning variety of text forms associated with Journalism. According to him much of mainstream media turned to blogs for eyewitness materials hence bloggers contribute to the news ecosystem.
The New York Times identified hyper-local blogging as a growing area in citizen Journalism due to the convergence of technology that allows stories to be indexed and accessed. The New York Times agrees that citizen journalism does not replace mainstream Journalism; It only augments and extends it by providing new ways of news gathering, and is giving audience “members a voice”. In addition, Citizen Journalists transform the role of the audience. In that sense, the professionalism of mainstream Journalism is just a way for news to be produced more official and not a guarantee of a higher quality. Jenkins, debating on the meeting point between professional journalism and blogger frames this much:
….Bloggers will be jostling with mainstream describe story by story, sometimes getting it right, sometimes getting it wrong, but always forcing a segment of the public to question dominant representations….Yet the adversarial relationship between the two hold the opportunity to correct many mistakes”
He further argues that society is in need of critical news writers and consumers as well as more civil-minded citizens that could be partially addressed through writing instruction in civil illiteracies and Journalists is to teach them to employ literacy practices. In that way journalistic practise of not the profession of Journalism Itself might find the much heralded death of newspapers.
Citizen Journalism appears to have put democracy back in the hands of the people. The act of a citizen or group of citizens, playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analysing and disseminating news and information is participatory. The intention of this participation is to provide independent, reliable, accurate, wide-ranging and relevant information that provides much-needed oxygen for democracy.
Whereas mainstream Journalists dismiss and characterise citizen Journalists as self-interested or unskilled amateurs, bloggers regard mainstream Journalists as an arrogant, exclusing club, which puts its own version of self-interest and economics severely above social responsibility. Citizen Journalism is created by networked communities, which values conversation, collaboration, and egalitarianism over profitability. Scholars like Shirkly pinpoints that the internet itself acts as self-editing mechanism, with editorial judgement applied at the edges after the fact not in advance as done by mainstream Journalists.
The managing editor of Salon.com explains that participatory Journalism communities is an emerging news media ecosystem where participants engage grassroots reporting, annotative reporting commentary and fact-checking, which feeds mainstream Journalism. The two are not competing but complementing each other.
In South Korea, Ohmy News.com Communication, the most influential online news site attracts dedicated 2million readers per day. With the help of more them 26,000 registered citizen journalists, Ohmy News.Com. has emerged as a direct challenge to established; media outlets in just four years. Oh Yeon-oh editor and Co-founder of South Korea’s Ohmy news.com want to say goodbye to 20th century Journalism where people saw through the eyes of conservative mainstream media.
The Wall Street Journal: MSNBC. Com, the Washington Post and CNN to name a few, all offer readers some degree of personalization on the front pages of their sites. Millions of my yahoo members customise that personal news portals with the same news write reports that editors uses in daily newspaper across the world. Google’s news page uses a computer algorithm to select headlines from thousands of news sites – thereby creating a global news stand of sort. Media outlines like Fox News and the Drudge Report offer the kind of opinionated slant to the news that Negropontes envisioned. Citizen Journalism is a practice now and of the future.
The Daily We confesses that the venerable profession of Journalism, for the first time moves at such a speed that its hegemony as gate-keeper of the news is threatened by not just new technology and competitors, but potentially by the audience it serves. In other to reach out to its audience, the BBC asked readers to send in images with digital cameras and cell phones so as to publish the best once on its website. All the major news organizations in the world are using the tools offered by social networking and they practice some sort of citizen journalism.
Typology of Citizen Journalism:
Citizen Journalism falls into four broad categories. Each category is discussed in some detail:
1. Audience Participation at Mainstream News outlines.
Here, all incorporate reader comments in their blogs either through emails or direct posting. They also involve discussion Forums such as No New York Times reader from articles written by readers, contribution in fan pages, reports, writes-up, reviews, commentaries and debates on policy issues. Examples include: ABCnews.com’s: The Dallas Morning News; The Santa Fe New Mexican Publisher; Nigeriaworld.com etc.
2. Independent News and information websites:
These are privately owned but have robust audience (Consumers) both in government and non- government circles. These websites sometimes depend on some amateur independent writers (not paid salaries) to provide original interviews, research artists and reporting. In Nigeria, such websites abound. Some of them include: www.huhuonline Com; www.Pointblank.com. thenigerianvoice.com. www.africanexaminer.com; www.africanheraldexpress;www.modemghana.com; etc. These sites primarily generate editorial digests, citizen reporting e-media opinion polls and commentaries.
3. Full-fledged Participatory websites: These are few in Nigeria. In South Korea there is the Ohmy news; the janjan in Japan, and the Indy media in India. These sites contribute significantly amount of materials and citizen-reported news on economic, social and political issues.
Another example is the Backfence.com – where information about the community is exchanged. Not only does Back fence allow people to do all they need to do; it also helps neighbours keep in touch with one another. According to co-founder Susan DeFife, Backfence.com is also economically viable by hosting local advertisements; online business listing and receiving fuddling from investors
Global voices-is another example on Citizen Journalist project initiated by Harvard Law School’s Berkam Centre for Internet and Security. The website aggregates accurate global conversation and call attention to areas glossed over by the mainstream media.
Wiki also employs software as a collaborative effort at facilitating the reporting of incidents such as the London train bombing in 2005 and the India Ocean tsunami in 2004. Today, Wiki articles appear on every websites and such articles can be revised to further improve their accuracy, content and quality.
4. Collaborative and Contributory Media Sites.
These are sites which invest the interface of weblogs and discussion boards, user contribution editorial content. There are other community sites with mechanisms for self-publishing, self – ranking and self-organization. Here, when you make an account, you join a team of dedicated members as well as a Community with its own culture, politics, beauty and blunder.
Theories Associated with Citizen Journalism
For the purpose of this paper three normative theories will be succinctly discussed because of their relationship with citizen Journalism.
First is the cultivation theory of mass media introduced by George (1969). In his work Towards “Cultural indicators. The Analysis of Mass Mediated Public Message Systems” Gerbner notes that the approach is based on conception of these massages Systems as the common culture through which communities cultivate, shared and public notions about facts, and values. His concern is the collective context within which individuals select and interpret messages. He believes that the essence of communication is the capacity of the mass media to transcend traditional banners of time space and social groping, and the content incorporation of the viewing public.
The Second theory associated with citizen Journalism is the Libertarian Theory. The theory espouses absolute freedom of expression, and supports competitive exposure to alternative viewpoints. The theory holds that there is explicit connection between Government and the media hence the press should be free from censorship. It advocates that Journalists and media professionals should have full autonomy, only accountable to the law. Libertarian theorists believe that the media is a watchdog of human dignity, right to private property, expression and free speech. The implication of the theory is that government should not interfere with the operation of the media.
The third and perhaps the most popular theory is the social Responsibility theory, the theory holds that because of its unique nature, society expects a particular role from the media. The theory avers that apart from the traditional roles to informing, educating and entertaining the citizens, the media should protect public interest by exposing the grey areas in government, policies and programmes. Simply put, the media has certain obligations to society. It must show truth accuracy objectivity and balance in reporting issues. The media should therefore be self-regulated with built-in code of conduct or ethics. Social responsibility theory enunciates that the media is pluralistic, diverse and its ownership in public trust, Journalism is therefore has a commitment to the citizens, and to protect public trust. The mass media are regarded as the ‘Fourth Estate of the Realm” It is the basic duty of the media to inform educate and entertain the public. Mc Quail (2010) says.
..Media can and should be held to account for the quality, means. Quality, means and consequences of their publishing activities to society in general and or other interest that may be affected. This brings accountability into potential conflict with freedom.
Closely allied to the social Responsibility theory is the Agenda-setting Theory propounded by Donald Show and Maxwell McCombs in the 1970s. The theory posits that the more attention the media gives to a topic, policy or an issue, the greater the importance attributed to it by the news audiences. Simply put, when the media devotes more air space, time and repeat an issue, it is seen by information consumers as very important. Thus the media sets the agenda for government.
A CASE IN SOUTH AFRICA
The South African Broadcasting Corporation, SABC, tried to obtain an interdict to have the mail and Guardian online remove a full report on an inquiry into allegations that it was blacklisting some commentators from appearing on TV or Radio. The SABC had not made a 78-page report public, only a 7- page summary, but the mail and guardian had obtained the full version and published it online. A Johamesburg High court Judge dismissed the SABC’s application claiming that the contents of the report are of extreme important to the public some SABCis a public broadcaster.
Government uses national security legislations to silence new media writers and journalists. In China, more than half of the 31 journalists in Jail are web-based. In Iran, bloggers are rotated in and out of jail. In Russia, the internet enjoys an impressive degree of freedom of speech. Russia has 26 million strong internet audiences. Two students were expelled from the Universities for criticizing their professors. A criminal case was opened against a journalist who used strong language to criticize government. A Ukrainian Youth living in Novosibirsk is a trial for racist remarks against a Ukraine based forum. A court ordered the physical destruct of a computer after the owner insulted President Putin. Two online media website in the Komi and Altai regions were ordered shut for lack of publishing licences.
Across time and space, freedom of the press is never simply handed over by governments; it is almost a fruit of tremendous resistance, of a titanic struggle between the desire for truth, and justice, free expression and debate, and the forces of repression and obscurantism.
Strengths of Citizen Journalism
Citizen journalism has evolved to become the FIFTH ESTATE OF THE REALM. It engenders diversity of voices and fresh perspectives and insights as compared to mainstream journalism. Aldon Hynes said in March 2007 that “Our current media ecosystem is dominated by a monoculture… the monoculture of corporate media organizations with reporting done by people coming out of the journalism schools across the country…Journalism is different”.
Citizen Journalism is different because everyone has a different perspective on the same issues, a different voice with shared opinions. Citizen journalism by its nature strengthens democracy and that the increased diversity itself democratizes the playing field of journalism. As citizen journalism fills the gaps of mainstream media, it attracts more eyes and ears of the community – helping to cover the hyper-local news that concerns people’s lives, which mainstream journalism, have no resources to cover. Most organizations are now constrained by dearth of financial resources to close their news bureaus and cut back on the number of staff. The implication is that news coverage on all fronts has suffered tremendous set-back and this is where citizen journalism provides succour by filling the gap created by the mainstream.
Now, the citizens themselves are willing and able to spend time to investigate issues on the media agenda. At Senator Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday Party, Lott made a remark extoling the policy of racial segregation. This was captured in the blogs, facebook pages and Youtube, whereas the mainstream press kept quiet over it. So citizen journalism covers areas which the traditional media misses.
Citizen journalism also has the ability to improve and motivate editors, and executives to think outside the box. One of such areas is the move towards convergence journalism- a move that has improved interdependence of communication systems. Convergence journalism is touted to produce more engaging reporting, more complete information and news that reflects the complexities of our plural society. Citizen journalism serves as an incentive for the mainstream media. People are now inclined to hear voices resonating from the communities rather than the urban-based reportage which introduces fatigue.
In the last analysis, citizen journalism can deliver news at unprecedented speed. The speed of Citizen Journalism may also be problematic to the extent that so many critical items may be glossed over. Georgetown Government Professor Diana Owens notes that 20 percent of Americans use social media for electoral purposes, but this number rises to 34 percent if the individual has had a civics class or is exposed to instructional material about democracy.
Another unique feature of Citizen Journalism is the capacity to share information. In 1999, the Cluetrain Manifesto avers that “A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, marketers are getting smarter and getting smarter faster than companies”
There are four kinds of sharing information. There is eyewitness reporting which may include mobile phones, pictures, email description, sharing videos, etc. Every blog has a sharing option especially blogs that are linked to sites. Citizen Journalism sites like Digg.com or Netscape.comare such examples. Again, the original investigative reporting is sometimes newsworthy, or occasionally it happens as a group activity – where a number of bloggers discuss an issue and pick it apart until the bones are revealed. The last kind of sharing is called Network Journalism – that is sharing knowledge. The challenge here is to get the expertise and use it to improve the quality, accuracy and insight of your journalism.
The motivation for sharing is to disseminate information among peers and news organizations to capture a moment of history or an exclusive message that would appeal to people. There is also the ability to tap into the audience for viewers’ opinion to enable them produce content in a relatively cheap manner.
Closely allied to this is the ability for the public to express opinion in public. This has put on the pressure on the traditional framework of impartiality and objectivity. For some organizations, the ability of people to express their opinions freely has undermined the value of columnists or op-writers; and where many traditional media organizations have been slow; they struggle to integrate public opinion.
In recent years, citizen Journalism input where accepted, has added value to both on-and off line platforms. Some mainstream Journalists are beginning to produce blogs as add-on to their jobs. Blogging is recognized and often adopted by the traditional media as complementary to participatory media.
In Nigeria there is some form of resistance from professional Journalist to adopt blogging. Highway Africa network has put it on the agenda in 2011. There is a range of online only media offerings in cyberspace without any nexus with offline mainstream media. A principal example is Ohmy News in South Korea-which has been a refreshing addition where most newspapers have historical alignment with government. The Ohmy model has groomed an array of citizen reporters.
In Malaysia, there is a developing example Known as Malaysiakini- which promises to be a standard medium providing audiences a chance to supply news and consent on local politics in contrast to licensed mainstream media.
In India, the Tehelka- is a famous Indian investigative Journalism site. Such initiations help to further online press freedom and to create credible media institutions that can practice credible online Journalism. The quasi-journalistic Mzalendo blog in Kenya’s parliament is another example.
Bloggers or citizen Journalists differ in their modus operandi from gate-keepers model of mainstream Journalism in that if entails linking audiences, feedback and conversation, Citizen Journalism not just about information but communication and that enriches Journalism. So citizen Journalism is good for pluralism, diversity, which are basic ingredients of democracy. Citizen Journalism is the Fifth Estate watching the fourth; but there all strong linkages between the fourth and the fifth. For example a basic preoccupation of press freedom in the fourth estate is to defend people’s right to information, and that is what citizen journalism seeks to achieve by making everybody a journalist. In this sense, citizen Journalism extends press freedom. What however remains constant is that the old and the new entrust fight the same cause. After all, press freedom is of eternal importance for all platforms in all countries across time and space.
Challenges of Citizen Journalism
One of the main concerns about citizen Journalism is the issues of vetting, credibility and accuracy. Invariably, the same speed that brings instant information also leads to a massive amount of often uncoordinated information which puts a question mark on credibility and accuracy. Since most of the major companies obtain information from the blogs, facebook and Youtube, there now appears to be a rat race among media organizations to break the news first in order to attract higher readership. The implication is that more credible and accurate news is sacrificed on the altar of speed. This brings to the fore the issue of vetting, credibility and accuracy.
The aforementioned grey areas notwithstanding, Citizen Journalism has immense democratizing credentials. The diversity of voices and opinions made available, which can be shared on the internet makes citizen journalism undeniably democratic and strengthens freedom of expression. Citizen Journalism provides a level playing field by providing equal opportunities for all voices to be heard. If the strength of democracy is predicated on an informed populace, citizen journalism has moved us a step closer to democracy.
Many people believe that the revolutionary changes taking place in North Africa – the Arab Spring is a direct result of the social media phenomenon. It was started by the blogging communities in Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and now Syria. The Arab spring demonstrates that alternative channels of information dissemination have become powerful. The emergence of powerful blogs, microblogs and social networking communities has greatly influenced traditional modes of journalism.
The Editor of KarobarBusiness National Daily – Pateek Pradham says that the instantaneous capacity of social media is not the biggest threat but when people hear something on the social media, they would like to check it on Television and Radio. It implies that social media takes the lead while others follow. Social Media has provided a boon to some mainstream media and challenges others to find niche journalism.
Media educator and blogger Indradhoj Chhetri holds the belief that social media has re-defined the traditional media’s way of disseminating information, and engagement of people with the social media has kept them above their employers. But Lokpatrakarita also believes that if social media soars in popularity particularly in presenting news-based contents without credibility, it will undeniably clash with mainstream media.
Already, Citizen Journalism is affecting mainstream media. There is now decreasing interest of media houses in their readers and viewers; this has already affected the revenue of newspapers daily. There is declining social responsibility of the mainstream media accompanied by diminishing credibility. The reality however is that whereas mainstream media affects a huge range of things: political; economic; and social sector, social media are not able to exert enormous influence to this level. But the role and influence of social media is ahead at the current pace. It could be possible that Citizen Journalism, which has no censorship, will dominate the mainstream media in the nearest future. Although basic norms and values could be applied to Citizen Journalism, people must remain free to express their opinions in a responsible way without censorship. This way, the new media can co-exist with traditional Journalism in a mutually beneficial manner.
Citizen Journalism has not only made waves in the media public sector organizations but impacted on the larger society. Citizen Journalism has leveraged people to realize they need not be passive consumers but active consumers and producers as well. With the advent of citizen Journalism, there is a shift in social relationships between individuals, groups and government. The erosion of the gatekeepers’ role selecting writing, editing, positioning, scheduling and massaging information to become news has been relegated to the background. (Shoemaker et al (2007). Readers and participants can now become creators with professionals, they face two principal constraints namely, the extent to which users are willing to contribute and the extent to which news organizations are willing to open the sites.
In Citizen Journalism, there is a place for investigative reporting, Even in the mainstream, many news organizations have cut back on instigative reporting because of low return on investment. Investigation and verification appear to be the hardest functions of citizen Journalism because Journalists lack resources to conduct in-depth investigations. This challenge is applicable to both the mainstream and citizen journalism.
Mainstream Vs Citizen Journalism: A Needless Controversy
The emergence of Citizen Journalism has given a boost for people to be more involved in deliberations of important Issues. Citizen Journalism According to the Media Giraffe project is one in which people take on the role of Journalists to right the wrongs of Society. He added that citizen Journalism leads to the fragmentation of society because people are overloaded with information. However, Citizen Journalism may be low on authenticity of content, some verification, accuracy, and truth; it has the benefit of speed, and timelines. On the score of credibility of the biosphere as a whole, citizen journalism has more self-correcting mechanism than the traditional media.
The nature of the internet and the field feedback system creates room for instantaneous but flexible self-correction. Fundamentally, the mainstream carries out the same processes after publication. Wilmarth believes that ‘organic Journalism creates natural additional check of journalistic standards and quality that is different from the profit-based managerial corporatism in journalism. The public today needs to be properly equipped with kills and Competences that will enable them understand the workings of citizen Journalism. Like Jill Lang (2007) rightly pointed out.
People need to understand (that) the stuff is unfiltered that it may be opinion; that it may be imperfect, that it is part of the larger picture and should be taken as part of the whole, not a single perfect picture of an issue, or event, but that it has home value.
People are desirous of understanding the new media ecology and how to navigate in it. Central to the understanding of the old and the new is that whereas the new will never go away the mainstream is driven by profit motive – a hugely one way discourse, but now, the balance of power has slighted from news producers to news consumers. Frankly, mainstream is losing a huge chunk of adverts to online ventures.
The phobia and the impression is that citizen Journalists are taking over the job of the mainstream and would soon render them obsolete. Indeed, the power of participation does not really destroy the commercialism associated with the mainstream but the two have the potential of working together.
To ensure and control the abuse of citizen journalism it is appropriate to put in place “netiquette’ to curb misuse. Better still, since the freedom of information has ground rules, the same code of ethics be applied to citizen journalism, which has gained in prominence. Michael store avers that the blog approach was the best way to move breaking news quickly and this is something the mainstream media cannot achieve.
White House Director of Digital Strategy Macon Phillips argues that social media create a new model of civic engagement that blends traditional with social media. Increasingly, he points out, reporters are following Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, and incorporating the voices of ordinary people in news reporting. This enhances democratic conversation and gives citizens more of a voice in national debates. It makes news coverage more authentic because it is based on what people say and it weakens the power punditrocrats.
One of the most worrisome developments in the contemporary period is the massive citizen disengagement from politics and feeling of alienation on the part of voters. Citizen journalism provides windows to re-connect citizens and leaders, and create more of a sense of public responsiveness and accountability. This is a reasonable practice for democracy to flourish, which the mainstream has ignored or failed to recognize.
Participatory or citizen journalism has become more popular not because it has the cutting edge but it prevents one from information overload. Invariably, Citizen Journalism may not quite replace the mainstream but in the foreseeable future, it might be integrated into the mainstream to influence a massive range of issues. After all, citizen Journalism is the digital version of “market place of Ideas’ (Milton, 1986). The question is why can’t everybody be a reporter and why can’t everybody be a Journalists if only they undergo the requisite training? And what is wrong of the Fifth Estate of the Realm watches the Fourth Estate in the emerging media ecosystem?
It is undeniable; citizen journalism has taken the public by storm and opened up new channels of communication connecting organizations to individual donors in the digital environment. The structure of participatory networks encourages the submission and distribution of ideas, products or conversations across a network of friends, family and colleagues. Sharing capabilities allow concepts to spread quickly online, requiring fewer resources to increase awareness and engage larger populations. This is where the strength of citizen journalism lies.
Judging by the popularity and the consuming wave accessibility of people, it does appear that citizen journalism has come to stay. It may not supplant the mainstream but their roles will be complementary. Journalism’s very survival, at least its values and purpose – depends on the ability of news organizations; and citizens to adapt to a dramatically evolving landscape. The roles and responsibilities of journalists as laundry-list of roles: watchdogs, investigators, moderators, entertainers, analysts, informers, editors, commentators, and advertisers are also changing because of the internet and the fever of networking. With the advent of citizen journalism, there are many community activists, agenda-setters, and voices for the voiceless. Through education, professional associations, and the profession’s deep-rooted culture, notions of fairness, accuracy, objectivity, transparency, and accountability are upheld. This is achievable by the mainstream and citizen journalist. As the media ecology changes dramatically, the roles of both may be complementary.
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Shoemaker, P. J. Eichhol3, M. Kim, E and Wriggle. B. (2001): Individual and Routine Forces in Gates Keeping. Journalism and man Communication Quarterly 78(2) p. 33-146.
Ministry of Information & National Orientation: (1999): The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
UNESCO (2007): New Media The Press Freedom Dimension Challenges and Opportunities of the New Media for Press Freedom being a Conference held by UNESCO in Paris 15 – 16 February with Speakers from over 30 countries.