Citizen Journalism: User Empowerment, Access and Participation Across Media Platforms

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The mobile phone has had a profound impact on the way in which news and stories are distributed across the domestic sphere and international sphere. Essentially, the mobile phone has led to an innovation in journalism: now, ordinary citizens have the power to share news instantaneously at the tip of their fingertips. Media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc have all made it easier to share photos, messages and videos across the internet, allowing users all around the world to access and engage with such content. Thus the advances in digital technology and the growth of the internet have empowered a new era of citizen journalism. This means that we now live in a participatory culture where ordinary citizens are also contributors to the community through self-expressed user-generated content.

The latest event I can think of where citizen journalism came into play was when a 13-year-old girl filmed two young women assaulting and abusing an elderly man. The amateur footage was later handed in to the police and was also posted on YouTube which circulated across social media sites.  Channel 9 aired the Footage on a Thursday night and by the next morning, the names of the young women were circulating on social media. Members of the public also called the police and by late Friday afternoon, both women handed themselves in to the police. This one example demonstrates the way in which the combination of the mobile phone and social media has made it harder for offenders to escape liability.

Taking pictureSimilar to this event, Janey Gordon also identified the way in which the mobile phone proved to be crucial in the crises of the 2004 South-East Asian Tsunami and the 2005 London Bombings. In the 2004 tsunami, many utilised their mobile phones for contacting others about the tsunami. The mobile phone was used in a number of ways: for photography, phoning or texting home, and most importantly, contacting survivors (Gordon 2007, p.313). Thus individuals in the crisis areas were able to capture and document the natural event in ways which would not otherwise have been possible. This also demonstrates how the news was spread without ‘the gatekeeping or editorship of corporate news media’ (Gordon 2007, p.313). Similarly, the event of the London Bombings also proved how the mobile phone became crucial in providing potent documentation of the event (Gordon 2007, p.314). Even the media and press utilised the images -which were subject to editorial process- taken by the citizens as a means to ‘enhance the coverage of the event’ (Gordon 2007, p.314). 

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All these events demonstrate that individuals involved in any event -the people who are are the story -are better at capturing the story. It may be argued that they are the best journalists. Citizen journalism also enables a diverse range of voices to be heard. Unlike mainstream media (where 70% is owned by Rupert Murdoch!), citizen journalism over the internet allows individuals to compare and contrast amongst a variety of vetted sources of news. However while this is a great advantage, this can also be a disadvantage as reports may be unreliable, inaccurate and subjected to bias. As Chris Measures claims, professional journalists are generally trained to avoid bias and understand both sides of a story (although this is questionable as at the end of the day, the important question to ask is: who owns the media corporation?). This article provides one example of where citizen journalism went incredibly wrong during the Boston Marathon Bombings.

Nevertheless, it is clear that the digital age has revolutionized the way audiences now engage as well as participate in reporting the news. As Kate Bulkley reported, many agree that such technological developments have added a richer dimension to current affairs.

Also check out Katie Couric’s Top Citizen Journalism Moments on YouTube:

 

Reference List

Journal Articles:

Gordon, J (2007), ‘The Mobile Phone and the Public Sphere: Mobile Phone Usage in Three Critical Situations’, Convergence, Vol 13, no.3, pp. 307-319.

Online:

Bochenski, N, Calligeros M, 2014, ‘Gold Coast bus attack: two women leave elderly man ‘upset and shaken’, Brisbane Times, 28 February, viewed 31st March 2014 < http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/gold-coast-bus-attack-two-women-leave-elderly-man-upset-and-shaken-20140228-33pyl.html>. 

Bulkley, K, 2012, ‘The Rise of Citizen Journalism’, The Guardian, 11 June, viewed 31st March 2014 < http://www.theguardian.com/media/2012/jun/11/rise-of-citizen-journalism>. 

Jenkins, H, 2007, Videoblogging, Citizen Journalism, and Credibility, Confessions of an Aca-Fan, viewed 31st March 2014, < http://henryjenkins.org/2007/03/videoblogging.html

Measures, C, 2013, ‘The Rise of Citizen Journalism’, Socialmedia Today, 1 May, viewed 31st March 2014 < http://socialmediatoday.com/chris-measures/1430031/rise-citizen-journalism>.

Video:

Five Year, 2010, Katie Couric’s Top Citizen Journalism Moments on YouTube, video, YouTube, 10 May, viewed 1st April 2014, < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySEIK-I8I-Q>.

THNKR, 2012, Citizen Journalism On The Rise, video, YouTube, 10 September, viewed 1st April 2014, < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKLPkODHo64>. 

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