Pros and Cons about Citizen Journalists

A citizen journalist is any person who takes an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information. A citizen journalist is not a professional journalist. Anyone in the public is free to be a citizen journalist as long as they have taken the necessary actions to view and share news stories with the world.

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There are various pros to citizen journalism and how beneficial it is to our society. One major benefit of citizen journalists are that they are resourced everywhere. If a professional is not present during a huge news story, anyone who is there is able to cover the story. With the click of an iPhone button, they are able to capture a picture or video of the scene and explain what is going on. Seeing as professionals cannot be in multiple places at once, citizen journalists help inform the public on serious matters.

Another benefit is that is provides the community with a different perspective. It is a perspective of someone in society who can relate to the topic because they are living every day just like the person who captured this important moment. Citizen journalism helps get local citizens more engaged in issues affecting their lives. I never thought about it until taking this class, but I know that if I ever witnessed a news story going on I could easily get involved by taking pictures and uploading them for the world to see.

A huge pro of citizen journalism is that it creates activism. Activism is an effort to promote, impede or direct social, political, economic, or environmental change. I helped create a social media campaign for a non-profit company in Coral Gables Florida called WEN (Women’s Emergency Network). That company was an activism group who were citizen journalists. They would capture stories and pictures of women who needed the right health and financial assistance to have an abortion. Even though this is a very controversial issue, without citizen journalists, activism would not be as easy to advocate for.

Lastly, citizen journalism is such a benefit to our society because it adds coverage on certain events that the mainstream media might otherwise miss if local citizens were not getting involved. Our world is so big; millions of stories take place each day. Without help from ordinary people, professional journalists would not be able to hear and cover all of the happenings that go on each hour. Without ordinary citizens and local people, certain topics might not be spoken or learned about.

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Even though citizen journalism has many pros, there are also cons that follow it. Firstly, information that is posted online from ordinary citizens is not always correct information. It is hard to trust everything you read on the Internet, and unreliable information can sometimes spread. Citizen journalists have no formal training in reporting. Several risks follow besides factual inaccuracies and lack of impartiality.

Another major scare to citizen reporters is that they do not have any training in ethics. In news, there are many sensitive topics that need to be shared with the public. Because citizens don’t have the necessary education on how to handle certain situations that may arise, they are not informing the public in the same way that a professional would. It is very important to prepare ahead of time before entering an emotional situation that could put someone else at risk or danger.

Lastly, citizen journalism can reveal information that is not technically considered “news” by newspapers, magazines and online journals. There is a big discrepancy by how news is defined because everyone has his or her own idea of what is considered to be important. However, professionals are trained and educated on certain topics because of what they specialize in.


Digital Tools for Journalists

One remarkable invention, Jelly, was created in April 2013 and was founded by Biz Stone and Ben Finkel. It is an app that is available for purchase on the Apple app store. Jelly allows you to ask questions about anything to anyone of your friends that you are connected with you from other social media sites. This mobile application uses photos, interactive maps, locational settings, and communication tactics. It has a camera feature where you are able to just point and shoot and snap a photo to then share with people and ask questions like, “What is this building?” Within a matter of minutes, someone’s answer will appear.

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 11.04.40 AMThe creators chose the jellyfish to represent their product because the application uses a loose network of nerves that act as the “brain.” The idea of jelly was to be able to help people no matter where you are or what you’re doing. It is an amazing tool to use that I recently just learned about. It is also a fantastic device for Journalists because they are constantly on the move and need to be able to collect as much information as possible at the fastest rate that they can find it.

Another great tool is Storify. This media was launched in September 2010. This social media tool is very similar to a blog, however, it is much simplier and allows you to tell a story while incorporating other forms of social media into your story. You are able to search through various networks and then choose whichever article, picture or quote you would like to add into your story to make it stronger. It connects to numerous media handles like: Instagram, Twitter, Flickr, Youtube, Google, Facebook etc.


Many organizations and news businesses use Storify to write about events going on. It is highly recommended to be used to cover social events, breaking news, humor, conversations, weather forcasts and more. It was created to allow users to create stories from collecting various forms of media into a timeline theme. It is great for journalists because they can enter their thoughts and opinions and receive feedback from fans who want to pull information from them and vise versa.

A third great digital tool that is used by Journalists is called Instapaper. I recently just heard about this helpful innovation. It was founded in 2008 by Marco Arment and already reached over 2 million users in 2011. It is a device that allows you to save web pages to read later on a user’s Android, iOS device, smartphone, computer or ereader.

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 11.06.01 AMThe greatest convience about this tool is that all your articles that you want to save are all combined into a nice, organized file where you can create different tabs. A new feature that is now available is the highlighter. You can highlight anything as you go along which is easy to store, retrieve, quote and share later on.

This tool is extremely practical for a Journalist because it helps keep them organized when they are searching for all of their information before writing an article.

New social networks for journalists

Social networks can be useful to journalists to promote, explain and persuade the public.  There are various forms of new and old media that are continuously enhancing the way journalists gather and write information.  An older form of microblogging that journalists use is Twitter.  Twitter was founded in 2006, and is a great way for journalists to scale messages and measure where the information comes from and where it goes.


Twitter is also beneficial because it offers tweet lists, which show a list of people in a certain geographic area.  This makes the content trustworthy.   Another great feature of twitter is that tweets can be geo tagged.  This shows the location of where the tweet came from.

Another interesting tool that is advantageous to journalists is Talkwheel.  Talkwheel is a tool that keeps conversation flowing with minimal time commitment.  It allows its readers to interact across social media, websites and video sharing sites.  It is a circular form of social media that mimics a dinner table by making it easy to participate and share comments unlike other forms of social media like Facebook where chronological order plays a factor.  Journalists find Talkwheel to be useful because it is easy to navigate and focus on the text  as opposed to the physical set up.  The conversation wheel app has a left panel with topics, which are extremely beneficial for a busy journalist who wants to visualize what people are responding to.  If someone does not have the time to answer a question that another person has posted, a third person is able to jump into the conversation and answer which can be great for a journalist who does not always have the time to wait for an answer while working on multiple stories and having to make deadlines.


Another fascinating tool is SocialBro.  This is a great time saver and is a twitter analytic tool.  It is extremely simple which is probably a reason for its early success and likeability.  The main dashboard shows recent unfollowers, new followers and offers information that helps see why certain people do not follow you and vise versa.  It also allows us to see who is not really active on Twitter from the list of people that one follows.  SocialBro also offers a feature that gives you advice on the best time to tweet.  Knowing when most of your followers are online, journalists are able to track when they will get more retweets and replies.

A third compelling tool is called Storyful.  This is an IPhone app that allows one to get the most popular social media stories of the day when on the go.  Storyful editors assemble the largest news from credible sources for journalists to browse for story ideas or even to stay up to date with current events that are taking place.  The app also allows people to see what certain media users may be saying about trending topics.

Social media is transforming journalism.  One major reason is because ordinary people can get involved.  The Boston bombings is an example.  Bystanders and ordinary people such as marathon runners and spectators quickly became citizen journalists while taking videos and photos of the traumatic events.  Some of the most read headlines featured their shots because they were the first to witness what was occurring and were able to turn in their work sooner than professional journalists.  Thousands of people take photos and videos every day that can develop into a sourceable archive for the masses. 

For more information on types of social network for journalist, visit here.