Nowadays, it seems almost anyone can report information on various events, regardless of their background, experience, or education. With applications such as Twitter and Facebook, you can reach mass audiences in minutes, if not seconds, and anyone can do it. This type of journalism, known as citizen journalism“is when private individuals do essentially what professional reporters do – report information. That information can take many forms, from a podcast editorial to a report about a city council meeting on a blog. It can include text, pictures, audio and video. But it’s basically all about communicating information of some kind.The other main feature of citizen journalism is that it’s usually found online.In fact, the emergence of the Internet – with blogs, podcasts, streaming video and other Web-related innovations – is what has made citizen journalism possible.The Internet gave average people the ability to transmit information globally. That was a power once reserved for only the very largest media corporations and news agencies.”
Evidently, like with anything, there are both positives and negatives of citizen journalism. Take a tragic event for example. It is positive in the sense that we can get realtime updates of the situation as it is unfolding without actually being there. We also do not have to wait for new agencies to get a reporter to the location to be informed about what is happening. Instead we can turn to applications such as Twitter, to immediately find out about events and in addition get continuous updates as well. Citizen journalism also gives everyday people the power to inform, contribute and get involved, instead of relying solely on professionals and their time frame.
This citizen ability evidently has negative effects as well. This includes the issue of credibility, and evidently, misinterpretation, misinformation, which can lead to false impressions, and ultimately inaccurate reports.
We can see both these positive and negative aspects of citizen journalism when looking at The Boston Marathon Bombings. Having actually been standing at the finish line in 2013, when the bombs went off, this topic is of significant importance to me.
A live image of the bombing tweeted by an eyewitness, Dan Lampariello.
Citizen journalism played a key role in this event because people flocked to Twitter, Facebook, and other social forums for up to date, immediate, information on the attack. This was positive for the public in the sense that they could keep up with what was happening by reading tweets posted by people at the event as they were occurring. In addition, features such as The Facebook Safety Check-In allowed people present at The Marathon to inform their friends and family that they were, indeed, safe. However, it also raised a lot of issues. Everyday citizens are not journalists, thus, they do not have the training or intelligence of a journalist when it comes to reporting. They report as quickly as possible and do not wait to gather more information before sharing it with others. As a result, their reports not often valid, and if so maybe skewed or somewhat biased. This was a huge problem when it came to The Boston Marathon. Reports by citizens or everyday people gave the general public incorrect information, especially about possible suspects. This lead to a lot of misunderstanding and eventual accusations of wrongdoings by completely innocent bystanders. This simple mistake led to horrendous results and mistreatment for those wrongly accused; and this is just one small example in the grand scheme of things. As a result, it is important to take citizen journalist reports, whether it be on a blog or via Twitter with a grain of salt. There is usually much more to a story than just what one person can see.
A photograph of me walking my dad off the finish line 3 minutes before the bombs went off.