Citizen Journalism – The Debate

This week in DIGC202 we looked at how Web 2.0 and ‘New Media’ have impacted the field of  journalism, specifically focusing on the rise of citizen journalism.

Bruns (2009, pg 2) states that ‘conventional models of media production, distribution, and consumption are no longer relevant’ due to our networked society and the many-to-many information flows that can now occur.  This has resulted in what Bruns describes as a ‘more equitable media environment’ as we all have the ability to send and receive information, which is the driving force behind the rise in citizen journalism and the movement away from the traditional gatekeepers of modern media conglomerates.

Citizen journalists utilise social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as blogging sites such as WordPress.com, to create and publish news content.

Debates about the value of citizen journalism surround the following opposing questions:

  • Does citizen journalism democratise news media and should the content created by citizen journalists be considered a valid news source?

OR

  • Does citizen journalism result in an excessive amount of inaccurate and improperly researched news reports of poor quality which clutter the Internet?

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FOR: Citizen Journalism is a valid form of journalism

The main arguments in favour of citizen journalism suggest that citizen journalism democratises news media as every person has the ability to disseminate news content.  Whilst traditional news media must consolidate reports to fit time restraints, and act as gatekeepers by deciding which stories to print, there are few restrictions on citizen journalisms; this allows citizens to have access to a wide variety of news stories, each contributing a small part to our overall understanding of a news event.  In addition, it is argued that citizen journalists hold traditional news outlets accountable. As Bruns (2009, pg 10) states,  citizen journalists have become ‘watchdogs for the mainstream media, identifying and correcting misunderstandings, misreporting, and misinformation’; he cites Singer (2008) who suggests that citizen journalism be considered ‘Estate 4.5’ .

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AGAINST: Citizen journalism is not “real” journalism

The arguments against citizen journalism centre on the perceived lack of quality and accuracy of citizen news reports.

Ron Steinman (2009), a critic of citizen journalism, claims that citizen journalists lack the training required to publish quality news content. He defends the notion of the traditional media  ‘gatekeeper’, suggesting that they serve an important function as they ‘impose standards that make for good journalism’. His views directly align with that of Keen (2007), who vehemently argues that amateur content producers are clogging up cyberspace with inaccurate and low quality material. Both Keen and Steinman believe that content creation should be left to the professionals. News-reporting was once considered a skill that required years of training; however, Web 2.0 has given billions of citizens the ability to imitate professional journalists without the code of ethics or the regulatory environment that official journalists must operate within.

So what do you think? Is Citizen Journalism Estate number 4.5?

Thanks for reading!

Katie

 

Academic references:

Bruns, A 2009, ‘News Blogs and Citizen Journalism: New Directions for e-Journalism’, accessed 15/9/2012 via [http://produsage.org/files/News%20Blogs%20and%20Citizen%20Journalism.pdf]

Steinman, R 2009, ‘Citizen Journalism: A Recipe for Disaster’, accessed 15/9/2012 via [http://digitaljournalist.org/issue0912/citizen-journalism-a-recipe-for-disaster.html]

Keen, A 2007, ‘The Cult of the Amateur: How blogs, MySpace, YouTube, and the rest of today’s user-generated media are destroying our economy, our culture, and our values’, Broadway Books

Image sourced from here.

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