With the rise of social media sites, especially Twitter, practically anyone could be a journalist. I mean this is the way that now, anyone can spread information online, similar to the foundations of what a journalist does.
This is referred to as Citizen Journalism.
By its formal definition, citizen journalism is:
From the protests in Baltimore to footage of the riots in Syria, citizen journalism has proven especially helpful to not necessarily replace journalists, but supplement them. Although there are some consequences of citizen journalism.
Before I go into the benefits or drawbacks of citizen journalism, I feel as though I should explain the controversy around the term.
As someone studying journalism, I can understand the frustration behind someone with no formal studies or training calling themselves a journalist. However, some “citizen journalists” can be doing the act without even realizing. Below are a few examples.
The first video shows footage from a Black Lives Matter protest, the second video features footage of the Syrian protests, and the last two show a video and photo of the London Tube explosion back in 2017.
In cases such as these, citizen journalism is essential because it helps inform the world what is happening. Citizens who are there tweeting, recording, etc. allows for first-hand knowledge that may not be released or available yet to mainstream media organizations. Especially when people are hurt, especially in the case of the tsunami in which people needed help were able to receive it due to their social media aspect.
However, there are some drawbacks as well.
- There is no one to fact-check what is being posted.
- Social media usually only tells the user when the content was published, not first shot so there is no way of knowing whether the footage was edited.
- Because everyone shoots the footage from different angles, it sometimes creates confusion.
We saw this with the Boston Marathon Bombing.
Everyone was trying to figure out different suspects, and there was so many different options because of the different angles shot.
This starts rumors, and creates more confusion rather than helping the situation.
Overall, citizen journalism is still in the process of being perfected however I believe it helps journalism overall rather than detriments it.