Social Media: Rise of Citizen Journalism

In the early 1980’s, when the Internet began to come about, citizen journalism emerged on social media platforms. It radically and forever changed the way we received and distributed the news.

Citizen journalism soared with the arrival of social media.

However, that is not to say that citizen journalism has not been criticised and disrespected. In Rosenberry & St John’s book, Public Journalism 2.0 (2009), it’s discussed how citizen journalism has been universally unaccepted by not only professional journalists and news organisations, but also some of the public.

Moving through the decades, citizen journalism was said to be, “self-absorbed and self-righteous and even bordered on propaganda” (Rosenberry & St John 2009, p.4). With no code of ethics or training within the field of journalism, this statement was very often true.

With social media, it allowed anyone to be able to participate in citizen journalism, also allowing unlimited public involvement. Therefore, blog posts, photos, videos and stories could be opinionated, misleading and many times all together fake.

Here is just one example of a video that went viral over social media platforms. The video was edited and a 3D animation made by University students and that fooled thousands, if not millions of people (Ashworth 2014).

In this past decade, especially in the past few years with the growth in social media platforms and its immense popularity, citizen news can be shared throughout the world.

Although, there can often be false news distributed over social media, citizen journalism can and has also been informative, engaging and useful.

Looking at crisis reporting in particular, social media has allowed the public to share and receive crisis and emergency news immediately.

Media correspondent of BBC News, Torin Douglas, reported that on the 7th of July 2005, amongst the London tube and Bus bombings, the public were at first-hand responsible for distributing thousands of photos and videos of terrorism attacks. With social media, people were able to share their ‘once in a lifetime‘ photos and stories instantly to the public and news organisations.

The day was named “the day of ‘user-generated content’ or ‘citizens’ journalism’” (Douglas 2006).

long bom
The London bombings captured from an aircraft.

Similarly, the 2009 Iran presidential campaign and the 9/11 terrorist attack saw thousands of people sharing photos, videos and their stories instantly onto their social media sites. Their own personal experiences throughout the horrific event were heard and seen.

Have you ever participated in crisis reporting, posting an accident, emergency or even a terrorism attack on one of your social media sites? Did you notice that you were participating in citizen journalism?

Today, citizen journalism is exceedingly common. So much so, that there are millions of people participating in it without even realising that they to are being classified as citizen journalists.

Without social media – this instantaneous means to distribute news to millions of people around the world – many news worthy stories and events would be uncaptured and unknown.

Social media sites have allowed for citizen journalism to revolutionise the way we receive and distribute news. It “helps provide us with faster, more reliable and diverse news than this society has ever seen before” (Zeil-Rolfe 2014).

Do you find yourself receiving and distributing news on your social media sites? Is it reliable and up-to-date?

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