Citizen Journalism: New-Age Newsgathering

Citizen Journalism: New-Age Newsgathering

Rabia Noor
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 25
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1828-1.ch008
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The last decade has brought several advanced technologies for journalists. This in turn brought in a new era of revolutionary concepts of journalism. One among them is citizen journalism. Although the practice of citizen journalism existed centuries before, it is new media that has accelerated its pace in contemporary times. Citizen journalism is one of the most novel trends in journalism at present. Nowadays, several alternative news sources are available on the internet, such as blogs, social networking websites, etc. These offer a wide variety of news, thus giving a good competition to mainstream media. On many occasions, citizen journalists have reported breaking news faster than professional journalists. With the result, mainstream media no longer serves as the sole source of news. Many established television channels and newspapers are bringing in innovations in their operations to compete with what can be termed as new forms of journalism. The chapter underlines the significance and limitations of citizen journalism, which is only going to grow in the coming times.
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Citizen journalism is a concept in media that refers to journalistic activities of ordinary people. It means citizens themselves report the issues confronting them. Citizen journalism has enabled people to raise their voice on what they feel need attention. These people are, thus, termed as citizen journalists. Citizen journalists or amateur reporters are none but the general audience, that is, viewers, readers and listeners of mainstream media.

Duffy, Thorson and Jahng (2010) have defined citizen journalist as “an individual, who is not a trained professional, but who nonetheless may report on his or her neighbourhood or community.” Referring to citizen journalists as “people formerly known as the audience”, PressThink blogger Jay Rosen (2006) mentions that “earlier they would be on the receiving end of a media system that ran one way, in a broadcasting pattern, with high entry fees and a few firms competing to speak very loudly, while the rest of the population listened in isolation from one another.” He, however, argues that presently they are no more in a situation like that. The founder of the Centre for Citizen Media, Dan Gillmor (2004) defines citizen reporter as “any person, who participates in such a conversation that is helpful, and who is not patently a ‘fake’ citizen, that is, someone representing a corporate interest” (as cited in Tilley & Cokley, 2008).

The key to practice of citizen journalism lies in the proactive nature of citizens. It sits well with what Coleman (2001) has rightly stated that “to be an active citizen is to be a communicative agent” and that “there can be no community without communication”. This implies that a citizen journalist is an active citizen, for citizen journalism derives its significance from communicative acts of citizens. Wilson (1993) discusses that “the term ‘citizen’ has three current standard meanings: (i) someone born in a particular place or nation; (ii) a voting member of a republican city, nation, or state, who has various rights and responsibilities because of that status; and (iii) a civilian, as contrasted with a soldier or other official.” However, Tilley and Cokley (2008) observe that none of these translates directly into the application of the term ‘citizen journalist’. They assert that “a citizen journalist may be a ‘netizen’ (Internet user) rather than being identified with a particular nation-state; a citizen journalist may not be a voter; and a military official can also be posting to news sites as a citizen journalist.”

Citizen journalism is also known as participatory and democratic journalism (Baase, 2008). There are various other synonyms used for citizen journalism—‘public journalism’, ‘civic journalism’, ‘stand-alone journalism’, ‘networked journalism’, ‘open source journalism’, ‘crowd-sourced journalism’, ‘collaborative journalism’, ‘grassroots journalism’, ‘community journalism’, ‘bridge media’ and so on. Cohn (2007) argues that all these terms refer to different acts. “These forms of journalism are related to ‘citizen journalism’, but each is a unique species that has evolved out of a larger family of social media.”

One of the most accepted and inclusive definitions of citizen journalism has been put forward by Bowman and Willis (2003) in New Media. They define citizen journalism as “the act of non-professionals, playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analysing and disseminating news and information.” This definition covers all the possible activities of citizen journalists in existence. The authors further write, “The intent of this participation is to provide independent, reliable, accurate, wide-ranging and relevant information that a democracy requires.”

Ross and Cormier (2010) have defined citizen journalism “as a rapidly evolving form of journalism”, where ordinary citizens “take the initiative to report news or express views about happenings within their community”.

News reported by citizens is of the people, by the people and for the people. Citizen journalists are independent and freelancing reporters. They are not constrained by conventional journalistic processes or methodologies, and they usually function without editorial oversight. Citizen journalists gather, process, research, report, analyse and publish news and information, most often utilising a variety of technologies made possible by the Internet.

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