Citizen journalism is an activity that is becoming increasingly popular in modern society. It is a broad term used to describe the phenomenon of average citizens taking on the roles of amateur journalists, in order to provide alternative sources of information, outside of more traditional news and media sources. Additional terms that are frequently used to describe this movement include the following: Participatory journalism, democratic journalism, street journalism, or guerilla journalism.
Although citizen journalism has been in existence for decades, in various forms, the movement is currently experiencing a marked rise in popularity. The reasons for this increased exposure are multiple and varied, but can be mainly attributed to the seemingly limitless access to information from across the globe, via the internet, and the easy accessibility to internet activities such as blogging and posting videos on YouTube. There are a number of important discussion points that need to be addressed when considering the advantages and disadvantages of citizen journalism, including the question of why it exists, the many forms that it takes, the question of objectivity, and the degree of influence that it can and often does have on the propagation of ideas and movements. These points will be discussed in more detail below.
Why is Citizen News Important? Why and How Does It Exist?
Citizen news is an extremely broad term, encompassing countless types of information and methods of delivery. The general idea behind the phenomenon is the basic desire to receive and transmit information. Citizen journalists may be motivated to share information for any number of diverse reasons: They may be activists; attention-seekers; they may be privy to important information not being addressed by more traditional media sources; they may wish to express an opinion. Some amateur writers may wish to provide unbiased perspectives on situations in which they feel the traditional media is presenting only one side, while others may devote their energies to fact checking and/or analyzing existing news pieces.
Popular Forms of Citizen Journalism
As described above, the idea of a democratic form of journalism, where every individual is entitled to a voice, and to having that voice heard through various forms of media, may manifest itself in many ways. In today’s plugged in society, propagating information has never been easier, with tools such as web logs (blogs), chat rooms and message boards, and the ability to publish home videos of every sort on YouTube and similar sites. One characteristic that all of these citizen journalism sites have in common however, is the possibility for audience participation. Discussing an issue in one of these public domain sites invites the opportunity to publicize criticisms and comments, and to engage in a continuous dialogue.
The Question of Objectivity
The biggest challenge, with citizen journalism, is being able to identify information that is put forth in an objective and unbiased way, as opposed to information that is used to advance a particular cause or idea. Although it may be argued that every large media generator, particularly those that are for-profit organizations, has an ulterior motive, and wittingly or unwittingly promotes the interests of that given group through the information they propagate, citizen journalism introduces an entirely new level of news acquisition and generation. Determining the reliability of sources becomes a different sort of challenge; one that requires a natural inquisitiveness on the part of the reader, and the necessity of checking multiple accounts at the same time to find the accuracy of answers to questions. In effect, citizen journalism challenges readers and viewers to question all of the information they receive on a daily basis, and to develop their own perspectives on current events.