Citizen Journalism

So what exactly is citizen journalism? For myself, I was unaware of this vague term that has apparently spread like wild fire in social media. Apparently citizen journalism is playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information.

So is citizen journalism beneficial or a nuance in today’s media? Here are what the experts had to say:

The Positive

“The newspapers that survive will be the ones that make the most of the benefits of the online world. Citizen journalism can in many cases provide free content and the internet provides the ability to reach a much larger audience. The old media that combine their resources with the advantages of new media will thrive. The old media that try to cling to their old methods of doing things will die.” — Derek Clark, who runs GeekPolitics.com.

“Probably some events get reported by citizen journalists that would not be reported without them. Reporters can’t be everywhere and cannot know about all events taking place in their communities. In that sense, citizen journalism may help to broaden the
kind of events that are reported.” — Prof. David Weaver.

“With smaller staffs chasing fewer stories, citizen journalists could help local papers keep a broader mix of stories and community reporting in front of readers. Citizen journalism can be a powerful tool for reporting hyperlocal news (news that is specific to one community) because people care about their community and have a hunger for finding out what is going on.” — Thom Clark, president of the Community Media Workshop in Chicago.

“Are you a local newspaper? 90 percent-plus of your income from print adverts targeted at people in the area? Then you should be looking for the local citizen journalists who sit
next to their police scanner and report on the drug busts and local fires. Assume you will have to invest in improving their writing skills, be relaxed about them publishing elsewhere, and pay them enough money to make it worth their while to give you first option on material.” — Brian McNeil, pioneering Wikinews journalist.

“Citizen journalism can help local newspapers survive by making them a more interactive product. Readers who post comments, articles and photos on their local newspaper’s web site might feel a stronger connection to the paper and be more likely to read the print version and the online version of the paper.” — Larry Atkins, adjunct professor of journalism in Arcadia University’s English, Communications and Theatre Department.

The Negative

“I don’t think citizen journalism should dominate or even play a minor role in the operation of mainstream newspapers. I’m sure there is a place for it … a valuable place … in alternative media. I think it’s been the mainstream newspaper industry’s embrace of new editorial formulas and approaches that has been leading to its demise (although) my opinion runs contrary to what most inside and outside the industry believe.” —Adam Stone, publisher of Examiner community newspapers in Putnam and Westchester counties.

“[Citizen communicators] are best at reporting breaking events, and not likely to be very helpful for in-depth, analytical or investigative reporting.” — Prof. Weaver

“Newspapers are brands that bestow credibility, authority, gravitas on their content. I don’t think ‘citizen journalism’ (is there agreement on what this term even means?) can sustain the type of reporting that produces Pulitzer prize winning pieces.” — Richard Roher, president of Roher Public Relations.

“Local newspapers should not rely on citizen journalists to help them survive. Most citizen journalists are not paid anything for their work and lack the motivation to help a for-profit entity continue to make a profit. Citizens cannot and should not be viewed as free labor.” — Dr. Kristen Johnson, assistant professor, Department of Communications, Elizabethtown College, Pa., who has authored several papers on citizen journalism.

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