The Future of Journalism: Bright or Bleak?

This week in BCM310 we have been discussing journalism and how the Internet and digital media technologies have led to a phenomenon known as ‘participatory journalism’ or ‘citizen journalism’.

Our traditional understanding of journalistic practices has been overrun by the increasing involvement of the everyday person in the creation and dissemination of news content. But what will be the impact of these changes on the journalistic profession and the means by which media content is produced and distributed? Should journalists and media corporations embrace participatory journalism as a positive force, or should they fear for the future of journalism?

Quandt (2011, pg 174) interviewed journalists about how they felt about the impact of participatory journalism on their field, noting that overall there is no ‘universal perceptions about participatory journalism’. However, Quandt does acknowledge a general divide between those journalists who see the benefits of user participation in journalistic production, and other journalists who are more concerned about how the validity, integrity and professionalism of journalism is being negatively impacted by citizen journalism.

I am now going to take a closer look at the mindset of each of these distinct camps.

JOURNALISM TRADITIONALISTS: “Not just anybody can call themselves a journalist!”

Journalism traditionalists fear the impact that citizen journalists will have on the integrity of journalism and see it as a ‘threat to traditional journalistic structures’ (Quandt 2011, pg 168). An article in the NY Times (Stetler 2009) identifies the issue of content validity using the example of protests in Iran. Stetler notes that many news organisations use information provided by citizens without checking the source’s legitimacy. Whilst the volume of content available to journalists is great, it is difficult for journalists to filter through this content, verify its integrity and ‘discern what is relevant and what is not’ (Quandt 2011, pg 167).

PARTICIPATORY EVANGELISTS: “Citizen journalists provide us with content and make journalism more democratic!”

On the opposite side of the argument are those that see the availability of user-generated content as an aid to the democratic process and a positive benefit to journalism. New York Times media writer David Carr is a strong proponent of citizen journalism, identifying that social media provides the public with the ability to act as ‘watchdogs’ of official news outlets by ‘correcting mistakes and false information’ (Ingram 2012).

So where do I stand? I believe that the rise of citizen journalism is inevitable. Therefore, the positive benefits that these changes provide should be embraced, whilst systems and procedures need to be developed in order to manage any negative implications. These changes require journalists to be dynamic and to make a concerted attempt to adapt to the changes in their field.

How will they handle their online future?

Thanks for reading,

Katie

References:

  • Quandt, T 2011, ‘Understanding a New Phenomenon: the significance of participatory journalism’, Chapter 9 in Hermida et al Participatory Journalism, Wiley Blackwell pp155-176
  • Ingram, Mathew 2012, ‘David Carr on newspapers, Twitter and citizen journalism’, Gigaom,  September 14, accessed 10/4/2013 via here
  • Stetler, B 2009, ‘Journalism Rules are Bent in News Coverage From Iran’, The New York Times, June 28, accessed 10/4/2013 via here
  • Image sourced from here.

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.