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.
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.