What is Citizen Journalism?
Here at CJAG we consider citizen journalism as including anything from notes and quotes from a public meeting, to neighbourhood happenings and trends, to an original analysis of a piece of proposed legislation, to a public discussion about conditions at local parks, to music and restaurant reviews, to podcast interviews with community leaders and characters, and much more.
With the transformation from print to online journalism, trained, professional journalists are being sidelined by this rising trend of Citizen Journalism. But what constitutes being a citizen journalist versus a journalist?
Not long ago, the boundaries relatively clear. But with the creation of blogs and comment pages, citizens have the ability to proclaim themselves journalists without assuming the ethical responsibility of professional journalists to be fair, accurate, and balanced in their reporting and writing. Many bloggers consider themselves journalists. They report on the news they witness and find important. Most use personal experience to share their knowledge. For an event like 9/11, bloggers, especially in New York City, used their sites to let their loved ones know they were okay and to share their experiences with the rest of the nation. And reporting the news through words is not the only form of citizen journalism or traditional journalism. With the ease of mobile cameras and video recorders, anyone can snap a photo and almost instantly send it to the web. But just because they experienced the news and tell others, does that qualify them as journalists?
It can be claimed that citizen journalists are doing what real journalists aren’t doing. They are telling the whole story and are not affected by the institution of journalism or driven by money. And some people have a knack for performing the act of journalism in terms of asking questions and getting information more easily than others and of course, some people are just better writers. Naturally, some don’t, and so the quality varies, because not everybody is born with core journalism skills; identifying news, collecting and selecting the best material and presenting the material effectively. Some of these skills can be picked up, but a solid journalistic education is a sure way to gather the basic skills needed.
Professional journalists typically have a degree in their field. In order to achieve a degree in journalism, most programs require classes on ethics, history and law in addition to basic journalism training in reporting and writing. Because of different news mediums colliding, such as online and print news, many students of journalism also take classes like photography and broadcast journalism to better market themselves in the competitive field of journalism.