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Citizen Journalism: Good, Bad or Somewhere In-Between?

Citizen Journalism: Good, Bad or Somewhere In-Between?

According to Kim & Lowrey (2015), “there has not been a consensus on the definition of citizen
journalism”. But alas, in the name of BCM111, I will try…

Citizen journalism, as I understand it, is the gathering and dissemination of information by ordinary people. This gathering and dissemination largely takes place as a development of ‘web 2.0‘, where users will use social media sites, web portals, blogs or other digital media to report newsworthy situations around them. Citizen journalism can be understood as an alternative source of information, outside the mainstream media.

So, is ‘CJ‘ a good guy or a bad guy?

Citizen journalism “means citizens themselves report the issues confronting them. Citizen journalism has enabled people to raise their voice on what they feel need attention.” (Noor, 2016).

One on hand, the practice of citizen journalism gives the media back to the people, allowing the everyday person to narrate their reality outside of corporate bias. People are able to use their freedom of speech and (to an extent) take back the power of information from the increasingly untrustworthy media industries. In doing so, citizen journalism allows creativity without authority and encourages a wider range of ideology.

It also releases some pressure off of journalists, as oftentimes, journalists are able to source information & pictures/video of events for which they were not present first hand.

The argument against citizen journalism implies that verification in terms of truth is not guaranteed. however, the same could be said of major media industries.

Furthermore, there is concern that citizen journalism poses a threat to traditional journalism as a job market. One could argue that monetising information is an ethical issue, however placing a monetary value on the research, writing, producing and presenting skills that trained journalists have keeps the profession alive and well.

According to the PEW Research Journalism Project 2013, Journalists strive for the truth through “the professional discipline of assembling and verifying facts,” as “accuracy is the foundation upon which everything else is built”. If employed journalists lie, they have authorities such as the MEAA. The same cannot certainly be said about citizen journalists.

That said, bias exists in the media, undoubtedly, and citizen journalism on some level contributes to evening out or challenging that bias.

The wide range and massive amount of information made available to the public through the internet and entertainment industries can also be counter-productive, in that individuals are exposed to more information than ever, and in some cases, this can have a serious impact on mental health & cognitive function (e.g. attention spans or desensitisation).

Case Study: Citizen Journalism in Nigeria

A study by Chijioke Odii (2013) revealed that citizen journalism in Nigeria contributes positively as well as negatively in its role in maintaining or developing the country’s democracy.

The study stated that:

  • 2% of the respondents were of the view that citizen journalism facilitated the growth of Nigeria’s democracy
  • 15% of them said it helped to hold government accountable to Nigerians; 
  • 10% said it helped to fight corruption in Nigeria’s democracy; 
  • 18% stated that it helped in the political education of the Nigerian electorate; 

while

  • 10% said it spread lies that were harmful to Nigeria’s democracy;
  • 9% said it incited Nigerians to violence against the government; 
  • and (6%) stated that it contributed to electoral violence in Nigeria.

While it was stated that citizen journalism plays an important and positive role in participatory democracy, it was also made clear that citizen journalism was used to spread harmful lies and contributes to electoral violence in Nigeria. While some stated that citizen journalism should be regulated, others suggested that electricity and other infrastructural facilities required for effective social networking should be provided.

References:

Noor, Rabia. (2016). Citizen Journalism vs. Mainstream Journalism: A Study on Challenges Posed by Amateurs. Athens Journal of Mass Media and Communications. 3. 55-76. 10.30958/ajmmc.3.1.4. https://www.athensjournals.gr/media/2017-3-1-4-Noor.pdf

Odii, Chijioke. (2013). Public Perception of the Implications of Citizen Journalism for Nigeria’s Democracy. International Journal of Research in Arts and Social Sciences, 5, 435-448. https://academicexcellencesociety.com/public_perception_of_the_implications_of_citizen_journalism.pdf

Kim, Yeojin & Lowrey, Wilson. (2015). Who are Citizen Journalists in the Social Media Environment? Journal of Digital Journalism, Volume 3. pp 298-2314 https://doi.org/10.1080/21670811.2014.930245


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