Citizen Journalism

I recently read an interview with Andrew Burton, a relatively well known photojournalist who has taken pictures of many international revolutions and social movements. He was discussing citizen journalism, the concept of citizens participating in the creation and dissemination of news. Thanks to the Internet, anyone with a decent camera (or an iPhone) can take and upload newsworthy photos. The same is true of other news content be it written, video or something else. This makes Burton and others journalists worry that their jobs, and potentially even the entire professional journalism industry, will become obsolete.

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Personally, I find the blurring line between readers and reporters to be a little scary. As everyday citizens begin creating and circulating content themselves, they have the opportunity to define what is newsworthy. This means news could become super localized or focused on just a few topics, depending on who is creating the news content. If this happens, what important events or opinions will we miss out on? In my network, news would likely ignore things like international relations or economics, instead focusing primarily on entertainment. This could be potentially detrimental to many, especially those who are not in journalism schools and actively seeking out diverse news.

This is not an outright defense of news publications because they all have problems (political bias, etc.), but I prefer a future in which journalism is in the hands of professional journalists. Additionally,  I do appreciate citizen commentary because it creates a diversity of opinions; however I think some kind of professional vetting process must be in place to decide what topics and opinions gets published.

As the Internet only grows in ubiquity, I think that citizens are going to continue creating news content. I think this is fine, as long as it does not make professional journalism obsolete. This could be biased because I’m a journalist, but I think its important to feed the professional journalism industry with enough money and public support so it can stay alive.

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