Technology has become a major facet within our daily lives as smartphones are now spending more time in our hands than in our pockets. As a result of this, news and journalism are being dramatically enhanced, as citizen journalists are pressing record and uploading to social media as-its-happening footage. From racial slurs on public transport to protests and riots in the streets internationally, communication is changing.
But what does this mean for traditional journalism? Has it had its day?
The Internet has undoubtedly shifted the ways in which we consume information. Jay Rosen (2010) refers to us as “the people formerly known as the audience” as we are rapidly becoming prosumers – producers and consumers. Teodor Mitew states, “prosumers are an ecology where participation is its own reward” (Mitew, 2014). This is why citizen journalism is such a viable entity as it is satisfying to portray what is happening in real time as well as incredibly beneficial to the public and media.
“The beautiful thing about the Internet, for example, the effect it has on the media, is that it really levels the playing field” states Huffington Post’s journalist and media producer, Ahmed Shihab-Eldin, “anyone is a reporter…consumers are becoming news producers and it’s exciting.” Ahmed explains in this video (below) how journalism and citizen journalism are rapidly intertwining in this social media dominated society. But what is interesting is that he is extremely positive about this convergence, “it makes the job for a journalist that much harder because as a journalist now, you have so many sources.”
However, Ahmed (2012) does stress that there needs to be a symbiotic relationship between the two as citizen journalism is there to fill the gap that a parachute journalist – one who only reports when the story is trending- cannot fill. A citizen journalist contextualises stories where it may be difficult to do so because of historical, religious or cultural anomalies. A journalist’s role is to “contextualise, to report, to tray and be factual, to use stories to illustrate the human condition…to be progressive, to move society forward” (Shihab-Eldin, 2012). Moreover, Axel Bruns (2009) states that “at its heart, mainstream journalism offers news-as-product: a collection of easily digestible reports based on research, ready for consumption” conversely, “citizen journalism provides news-as-process: a continuing and necessarily unfinished coverage of topics and events inviting user participation”.
Axel Bruns has got it right. Yes, there are similarities but they both, offer something more, individually. Jay Rosen (2010) on the other hand has got it blindingly wrong as he believes that a journalist is “just a heightened case of an informed citizen, not a special class”. This made my blood boil. This – to me – is like saying a teacher is an overpaid babysitter. “A professional journalist knows how to get information, ask questions, tell stories and connect isolated facts. These are not esoteric or specialised skills, just heightened versions of things any smart citizen should be able to do” (Rosen, 2010). Few things Rosen; firstly, your argument was strong until you wavered at saying these are qualities any “smart citizen should be able to do” is a journalist not a smart citizen who is capable of asking intelligent, relevant, poignant questions?
I do not believe that any job is in its own “special class”; not a doctor, nor astronaut or a garbage man. They all however have fundamental skills that involve mundane, basic things that any “smart citizen” can do – a seamstress would make a wonderful doctor as she could do some amazing patchwork on a patient’s stomach; but there are so many other elements and finer skills that make a doctor, a doctor.
I understand I am not ever going to be qualified enough to do “brain surgery, or pilot a Boeing 747” (Rosen, 2010) but hell, I will write a damn good story that will inform citizens such as yourself on events you will never experience. And where I may falter in collecting valid, reliable, accurate sources then citizen journalists will be there at the helm to help me out.
Traditional journalism has not had its day in this vastly different mediascape as there still needs to be someone at the end of the day, to connect the dots, to fact check, to provide historical support and to generally write a story that is accessible for as many citizens as possible. We need to work collaboratively.
Bruns, A 2009, ‘News Blogs and Citizen Journalism: New Directions for e-Journalism’, e-Journalism : New Media and News Media, accessed 18 September 2014, https://moodle.uowplatform.edu.au/pluginfile.php/245673/mod_resource/content/1/Bruns%2C%20A.%20-%20News%20Blogs%20and%20Citizen%20Journalism.pdf Also can be accessed here: http://eprints.qut.edu.au/32539/
Mitew, T 2014, ‘Bridges made of pebbles: Social media and the transformation of journalism’, Global Networks, University of Wollongong, accessed 19 September 2014, http://prezi.com/sh7b7p0osscz/bridges-made-of-pebbles-social-media-and-the-transformation-of-journalism/
Rosen, J 2010, ‘The Journalists Formerly Known as the Media: My advice to the next generation’, Press Think, accessed 20 September, http://pressthink.org/2010/09/the-journalists-formerly-known-as-the-media-my-advice-to-the-next-generation/