Are citizen journalists and bloggers “real journalists”? What does it mean to be a “real journalist”?
Throughout the years, the ‘occupation’ Citizen journalism, has been viewed in many different lights. Some could see it as a professional career; however that would be seen as unfair for the people who have studied it and now have a profession in Journalism. Most people feel that Citizen Journalism is just a way of an individual getting their personal view across by displaying it all over the World Wide Web. “With the birth of digital technologies, people now have unprecedented access to the tools of production and dissemination. Citizen journalism encompasses content ranging from user-submitted reviews on a web site about movies to wiki-based news.” (Educase, 2007) There seems to be a constant battle between ‘serious, traditional journalism’ on one side, and experimenting with ‘crowdsourcing’ on the other; however, this could represent the evolution of journalism in the networked media world.
“The practice of journalism hasn’t been fundamentally changed so much as it has been extended. Journalism used to be linear. Now it’s networked. It used to be in the hands of a few. Now it’s in the hands of many more.” (Karp, S. 2007) In some ways there are hardly any differences between a citizen journalist and a professional journalist. Both types of journalist do the same job, but they can approach it from a different angle. It should also be known that a professional journalist will get paid to work, while a citizen journalist may be doing this for a hobby; or even possibly getting paid for the amount of page views on their personal website or blog page at the best of times. Many academic journalists traditionally address subject issues by gathering a quick report or opinion of citizen voices, as professional journalists have to be objective; so this is how they gather opinions to include the public eye in their story.
On the other hand, blogging can also be seen as a valid form of journalism, as it can look at more opinions and can give additional depth to an event. In simple terms, blogging can symbolise the term citizen journalism. Blogs have gained favour, because the public are always looking for something they can agree with or relate to, and get more involved in; also nowadays they can easily find out more in depth about the exact topic they are looking for, written by anyone, from the use of major blogging sites or browsers.
“By granting access to anyone to cover the news, citizen journalism presents a more personal, nuanced view of events and has the potential to cultivate communities of people with a common interest.” (Educase, 2007) Citizen Journalists in training, for example people working for NowPublic, are asked to write objectively; this can involve people in new ways, easily creating a deeper connection with the subject. Blogs started forming in 1999 when the first software to develop technology was created, but writing on the net was not entirely new; as there were forums and newsgroups already put up. It was noticed that by using blogs, everyone can publish whatever they please; so in journalism, there were more people to interact with, and this would also help bring more experts in. On the internet, people have all control over what they publish/produce, so people need to realise that people do not necessarily contribute useful content that may appear formal and factual. “Many users are inclined to trust material they find online, particularly if it is called “news.” In this way, citizen journalism projects have the potential to implicitly validate content that might be inaccurate, offensive, or otherwise lack credibility.” (Educase, 2007)
A fellow blogger wrote, “Journalism is not a licensed profession, like law or medicine. But it is similar in that it has some fundamental ethical principles that journalists follow… “Citizen Journalism” does not exist. There is good journalism, and there is bad journalism. Whether you are paid or not is not at issue. The issue is how you go about doing it.” (Andrew, 2008) It seems he does not want to call himself a citizen journalist, even though he seems like one from the issues written on his blog page. “While conscientious professional journalists are careful to separate supportable evidence from opinion or speculation, many citizen journalists have a weaker sense of what constitutes a reliable story, free of conjecture.” (Karp, S. 2007) Professional Journalists have learnt to know where to find accurate information, how to be ethical, and follow the many rules of journalism.
Many people now ‘crowdsource’ their knowledge. They look for the wisdom of their friends or publish what they know, instead of holding on to the information for themselves. Dangerously, citizen journalists may be answering questions to naive students and giving them inaccurate information and will affect their overall learning. Most people just think automatically that the internet is a brain box, feeding us convenient information. As a matter of fact, it is just someone else answering our questions; and may not even be correct ones. Citizen Journalism should not be seen as a professional occupation, as now most of this planet can gain access to the internet and can post just about anything. However, this could destroy the trust in journalists who academically know their profession, especially their accuracy. However “We still need to recognize where people are doing great journalism, and we still need to criticize bad journalism”, (Karp, S. 2007) as there are still less skilled mainstream journalists/reporters out there who are still unbalanced in their research and objectivity.
“Citizen journalism reflects a movement away from highly produced content to information that is local and more individually pertinent, and mechanisms will need to be implemented to manage this growing body of content.” (Educase, 2007) A real journalist is an objective reporter, who publishes the truth, and the representation of the truth using professional, appropriate language and accuracy. “But we need to embrace the reality that not all the people practicing journalism, for better or worse, are working for traditional news organizations.” (Karp, S. 2007) Citizen journalists look at opinions and gather further witnesses or actual footage of issues that may have been just briefly highlighted in the mainstream. The world is a democratic society, and citizen journalism adds more participation and discussions from the public sphere, then published onto blogs/websites. Even professional journalists may have their own blog, as they are also entitled to have a personal opinion, and collect feedback from the public. A citizen journalist’s responsibility is to be interesting or entertaining; a professional journalist’s obligation is to be accurate. However, nowadays it seems that nobody is a ‘real’ journalist; we need to realise that journalism now occupies a larger sphere, and “Journalism with a capital J needs to maintain standards but it also, desperately, needs to evolve in order to thrive as in a networked media age.” (Karp, S. 2007)
Andrew (2008) “Citizen Journalism” is just an excuse for being stupid. [Online] Available: http://www.capitolvalley.net/2008/10/citizen-journalism-is-just-an.html#trackback [22nd Feb 2011]
(Educase Learning Initiative, 2007) 7 things you should know about…Citizen Journalism [Online] Available: http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7031.pdf
Karp, Scott.(2007) It’s Not Citizen Journalism Or Crowdsourcing – It’s Just Journalism [Online] Available: http://publishing2.com/2007/07/30/its-not-citizen-journalism-or-crowdsourcing-its-just-journalism/ [22nd Feb 2011]