Citizen Journalists, Leave my Job Alone!

“I hate how much I love you ALL, I can’t stand how much I need you.” – sang the professional journalists to the citizen journalists, then I woke up from my dream. 

On December 27, 2010, I published a post on We are the World…Citizen Journalists, and a lot has happened in the media industry since then. The love-sour (hate would be a strong word) relationship between these two models of journalism practice is stale gist, and I would gladly update you.

It has often been assumed that the rise of citizen journalism due to information and communication technologies, would threaten the dominant space of mainstream media. However, in Kperogi’s 2011 thesis, he says recent research shows that:

…rather than challenging the dominance of mainstream news media by linking to and commenting on an ideologically diverse range of alternative news providers, weblog writers help strengthen  mainstream media dominance by further circulating, if not amplifying their discourse…

I then wondered that if this is indeed the case, why does mainstream journalism feel so threatened by the arrival of new players on the scene?

I got chatting with one of my TOP journalist friends, and below is a summary of our conversation.

Journalist says: Citizen Journalism is overhyped. Everyone suddenly thinks they know better than journalists – In fact, everyone thinks they are now journalists just because they wield camera phones and  record breaking news before the news crew gets there. Professional journalists are losing their jobs to these new crop of amateurs and the citizen journalists feel so elevated  to the point where they think they are now full fledged journalists.

iInterrupt.

My friend’s argument above is not surprisingly so, as Seth Godin in his article on The New Lazy Journalism says,

When journalism was local, the math of reporting was pretty simple: you found a trend, an event or an issue that was important and you wrote about it…now there is pretty much no such thing as local when it comes to news. Anyone in the world can read about anything in the world…We don’t need paid professionals to do retweeting for us. They’re slicing up the attention pie thinner and thinner, giving us retreaded rehashes of warmed over news, all hoping for a bit of attention because the issue is trending. We can leave that to the unpaid, I think…

I am all for not throwing away the baby with the bath water, that is, either party deciding they could do without the other. Exclusive professional journalism (as we had in the days of old), came with its benefits and challenges. Top on the list of challenges were that a lot of ‘worthy’ stories went unreported, news became increasingly commercialised, news was sometimes imbalanced (despite claims to objectivity) and so on. The benefits however, were that there was a structure that guaranteed social responsibility and you could vouch for authenticity of content to a very large extent. “Just Anything” didn’t make it into the news – and it had better be verified.

Citizen Journalism on the other hand, opened up a multiplicity of platforms where news stories that would have otherwise gone unnoticed, find a ready audience. Also, it instantly redefines the concept of ‘breaking news’ – I shouldn’t have to write a sermon on that.

Also, CJ has no doubt contributed to governance improvements  in states with fledgling democracies – for autocratic societies, check out the Arab Spring story.

The downside to Citizen Journalism is the explosion of hoaxes – false reports and footage being fed to established news organisations – who have to take a bite of the CJ freebie for various reasons such as the need to stay relevant to their audiences, and to stay in business.

The wind of change is blowing across journalism waters, and I consider it foolhardy to hang on to the old structure and ways of practicing just because you don’t like the seeming new outlook. I liken this to Facebook changing the front-end design of my page all the time – that grates on my nerves, but I work with it (because I need it).

Back to Citizen Journalism. While I am not in support of journalists losing their jobs for CJ to take over – because then, the idea of NEWS would be in crisis, I’m open to thinking that perhaps the definition of What is News just has to change and we have to let it, whether or not we like it.

Just because NEWS has a traditional definition does not mean it has to stay just as we know it. I was born to know NEWS as THIS, generations being born are growing to NEWS as THAT. Who should have the overall power on what news is or isn’t. News is changing, deal with it!

News organisations operate within the economy of the society they exist in and no matter the claim to objectivity, market forces do affect the production of news. They are not immune to the ongoing global financial crisis, and this is leading to job cuts in the industry ( a classic economic move), in favour of free content from CJs.

My questions to you:

  1. How do you suppose Citizen Journalism and Professional Journalism can have a fairy-tale wedding of happily-ever-after?  To put it academically, how can these two concepts effectively co-exist on a symbiotic plane?
  2. Do you think the world can afford to be without the professionals, we can report ourselves JUST FINE!?

Find below relevant podcasts from a conference I attended in 2009 “Is there a Crisis in World Journalism?”. These speakers addressed the issues we are experiencing today in details – touche arguments.

Nick Davies – Journalist of the Year, Reporter of the Year and Feature Writer of the Year for his investigations into crime, drugs, poverty and other social issues

Jeremy Paxman – Jeremy Paxman is a prominent and noteworthy presenter known and praised his abrasive and straightforward style of interviewing. He started his career in a local radio at BBC radio Brighton and in 1977, he became a part of BBC’s current affairs programme, Tonight.

Media Junkie

My latest act of photography 2012

My latest act of photography 2012

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2 thoughts on “Citizen Journalists, Leave my Job Alone!

  1. Boye says:

    I see the emergence of CJ as a means of putting the profeassionals on their toes. For examplea, in reporting the 74mph hurricane that swept the city of Lagos, Nigeria early Monday morning, some established media only two deaths, whereas there were not less than 15 deaths reported by another newspapers, apparently taking a cue from reports of CJs. All in all, to a resident of Lagos who witnessed the storm first hand, the magnitude of the damage caused by the storm was under-reported both by cjs and the mainstream media. The cjs while complementing the established mediaa, which align themselves, did not themselves cover the remote and rural parts of Lagos where there were bound to be more casua
    lities.

  2. Oluchi says:

    I absolutely loved your post. I agree that CJ is a growing trend but I don’t see it as a threat to professional journalism. PJs remain the major source of news to the masses. Why? Because there is an underlying sense of reassurance that news from reputable organisations are likelier to be authentic and verifiable. While I salute the versatility of CJs, I do not see them usurping the role of PJs anytime soon.

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