Social media has given everyday people an opportunity to be there own journalist allowing them to report on stories that are relevant to their local community. Citizen journalism is a tool that is both helpful and criticized. But it leaves us with a powerful question; why do we need professional journalism when regular citizens are reporting just as well?
I for one write about current events on this very blog. A few examples are the COVID vaccination debate and the Afghanistan situation. These are two events that are being discussed and covered all throughout social media and the news by both journos and amateur writers like myself. In an report by Richard Sambrook he discusses the importance of Citizen Journalism and the BBC, “…news coverage is a partnership.” (Sambrook, 2005) Using the London bombings as an example, “within 6 hours we received more than 1,000 photographs, 20 pieces of video, 4,000 text messages and 20,000 emails.”(Sambrook, 2005) This allowed for a huge amount of coverage providing a demonstration of how citizen journalists can be helpful in reporting.
Utilising both citizen’s and professionals we can now access on the spot feedback from events and real life opinions that haven’t been curated by the likes of a professional reporting system. But this can cause an overwhelming amount of biased opinions as journalists are taught to write the story and leave out their opinion. But because of the amount of freelance and citizen reporting people are reading different forms of the same story. This can be good, as its a demonstration of free of speech. But in certain countries where social media is controlled by the government, citizen journalism is repressed.
China for example censors their media to match the governments viewpoints, “news about the pro-democracy protests has been carefully filtered out of social media.” (Silva, 2021) The anti-government protests in 2019 disappeared from the media, not leaking from out of the country. Our own information that we get about China is in brief and very hidden from western society. Citizens that try to converse through social media about issues and news in the country can/are punished by the government. Famous artist, Ai WeiWei commented on the darkest of China’s past and present over social media as a result faced charges of torturous jail time, only his popularity saving him from a doomed fate.
It is situations like this that citizen journalism is at its most importance because the outside world need to hear what it is like in these repressed countries. But the government suppress any form of citizen journalism through controlling laws and regulations.
Traditional journalism cannot cover enough ground on its own anymore, rather it stands with the backing support of citizens sending in opinions, videos, photos and recordings. This is creating a new wave of freedom of speech, and allowing for the people to communicate with the people. This style of citizen reporting will open up a new conversations that we have never been able to have before.
Silva, M., 2021. Why I have to censor myself online. [online] BBC News. Available at: <https://www.bbc.com/news/av/stories-49527899> [Accessed 23 August 2021].
Sambrook, R., 2005. Citizen Journalism and the BBC. Nieman Reports, [online] p.All. Available at: <http://www.encoreleaders.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Nieman-Reports-_-Citizen-Journalism-and-the-BBC.pdf> [Accessed 23 August 2021].
Gabe Mythen (2010) Reframing risk? Citizen journalism and the transformation of news, Journal of Risk Research, 13:1, 45-58, DOI: 10.1080/13669870903136159