Citizen journalism: the changing face of media
The tension between journalists and bloggers has raged ever since “web 2.0” emerged in the new millennium. The journalist is educated and trained, and considered the voice of the nation. Surely they are above other wannabe hacks? But the internet came along and broke this business model, allowing “citizen journalists” to share what they wanted with the world.
Yes, that leads to a lot of dross. But there are some people who can write well, deliver a balanced opinion, and actually share real facts. So what’s the difference between these writers and ‘journalists’? The difference is that journalists get paid by newspaper brands that add credibility and scale with which they can broadcast their views.
Citizen journalism reflects this disruption in the market. The gates are open to everyone to have a say on the news agenda. Arab Spring, for example, has seen an emergence of such people who are risking their lives to bring video evidence of the violence there to the world. Quality reporting is not forsaken for valiance either. Only last month, a Huffington Post blogger was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in National Reporting in the USA.
Some of the biggest news organisations are eager to accommodate this appetite for news in more diverse formats of traditional and social and thus report more holistically. And with the traditional newspaper in decline, many like The Guardian, are adapting to the digital world by embedding this core concept of collaborative news blogging at the heart, turning its readers into a resource.
There is major growth in what is also known as “community journalism”, with a fast rate of publications hiring people to help develop and serve their communities. Case in point, The Guardian already has a suite of community coordinators and the New York Times set up The Local, a blog for community journalists in Brooklyn to report on hyper local news.
Blottr, the citizen journalism news site, is the latest news organisation to release a Facebook app in its bid to drive social interaction. Furthermore, the new Signal app, has been inspired by Arab Spring that assists and encourages citizen journalism by allowing users to create “mini stories” by capturing real-world events using cameras and geolocation. One could say it’s the Instagram of citizen journalism.
This delivery of fresh content inspired us to devise an interactive digital launch ad campaign for Huffington Post to emphasise this concept. Commuters were invited to engage in discussions on the latest news through Twitter, which were broadcast on digital displays in real-time across London. The campaign challenged readers of traditional news sites and papers to experience the site’s ‘blogger-oriented’ news platform. It drove 1.5 million unique users to the site, triggering 1,500 bloggers to sign up and reactions from celebrities including Gordon Brown, Ricky Gervais and John Prescott.
As Internet technologist Clay Shirky once said, “The cost and difficulty of publishing absolutely anything, by anyone, into a global medium, just got a whole lot lower. And the effect of that increased pool of potential producers is going to be vast.” The ownership of news is now in flux: the power has shifted and indeed the band of content producers has widened, changing the face of journalism as we know it.
James Devon, Planning Director, integrated communications agency MBA