Citizen journalism has become more and more prevalent in todays media and can come under a number of names such as; user-generated content, participatory journalism and interactive journalism. However, no matter what label it comes under it is effectively ordinary people sourcing and reporting news that is spread through the internet. But can we honestly call those that aren’t trained, experienced or professionals; journalists?
According to John Kelly in Red Kayaks and Hidden Gold, you don’t have to be a journalist to create journalism . Kelly notes that citizen journalism is a direct result of technology and the fact that the internet has given people the tools to create journalistic content of their own. Technology means that anyone can use their smartphone to take an image and tweet it or put it on a blog in an instant and in cases of breaking news it can be more effective and seen by more people than a news story in a paper.But does being in the right place at the right time make you a journalist?
In my opinion, no it doesn’t but Kelly rightly notes that the news media and journalists aren’t as trusted as they once were. So why shouldn’t the public get their news from people just like them that aren’t working to any agenda? Lately, journalism has suffered after a number of mis-setps and questionable coverage which has lead to only 18% of people surveyed in 2008 to say that they trust journalists to tell the truth. In a society that is so tech-savvy that has access to any information all over the world via the internet, journalists can’t afford to make these mistakes anymore because we live in a world where people will notice and therefore get their news from elsewhere. I agree in the fact that mistakes have been made and maybe that is a factor in the rise of the citizen journalist but I also think that it is important to note that citizen journalism has no regulations or restrictions in terms of the comments that people can leave on blogs, the opinions that are expressed, the news that is put out and implications of what is revealed. This lack of regulation along with lack of training within the industry and education makes me question whether citizen journalism is useful or not.
However, I completely agree when Kelly says that “the internet provides, if not a substitute medium, then a parallel one, a low-cost distribution mechanism that is newspaper delivery truck, paper boy, and radio and TV transmitter all in one.” The internet will inevitably change journalism and the way it is produced and read but I don’t think that we will see a time where the untrained citizen journalist overtakes a professional.