There are protests in London against the result of the General Election: a government that only 37% of the British people voted for. This Tory government will cut public spending, putting children on the streets and destroying our already fragile healthcare system whilst making their privileged lives even more comfortable.
What’s worse is the British media is not reporting any of this - even Twitter is being censored. It’s our responsibility to spread the word - #ToriesOut
To all the protesters in London and for those who plan on protesting on the 20th June PLEASE stay healthy. It is supposed to get really hot this week, and that is no fun if you’re marching about with little shade… Stay hydrated and stay well fed! We have to remain strong and healthy, keep your heads up and never back down.
Mark Earls evokes a line from Clash’s White Riot to question media’s post-mortem of the London Riots as being the product of specific events & triggers:
Listening to the latter it’s clear how easily the conversation becomes too specific - about the particular things that happened in a particular place at a particular time and the particular causes of it. What gets lost is the underlying mechanics of this temporary outbreak - the copying. Too much already is either route #1 moralising about individuals or route #1A big-abstract-forces- acting-on-individuals kinds of argument; too little is understanding this event in the context of other such events.
If you are interested in Social Thinking also check out my Slideshare Presentation “London Riots - wtf?” as an intro to the subject area and a tool to understand behavior in the social context.
The modern journalist today should be technologically savvy when it comes to social networking, be on the ball with new media platforms and above all remain on top of the news. But now more and more journalists are arguably put on the back bench and are reliant on citizen journalists.
But is the growth of citizen journalists a positive aspect for today’s media or is it hindering the way in which journalists work?
Chris Anderson in his book ‘The longer, long tail’ states: ‘Never underestimate the power of a million amateurs with keys to the factory.’ He makes a valid point here, most households in the UK are equipped with access to the internet, any individual can set up their own blog within the space of 10 minutes and be up and running for the world to see their opinions and their views on anything they desire.
What if that desire was news and content? This surprisingly in today’s modern society is more frequent than expected. Everyone has their own opinion on something that is happening, and now people seem to think they have become over night journalists when they have taken some raw footage.
Ed Walker, founder of Blog Preston had a lot to say on this topic and as to whether he feels citizen journalism indeed has a positive effect on the way journalism is conducted in today’s society. On whether or not Mr Walker believes that citizen journalism is having a big impact on the media he said; ‘not so much citizen journalism, as citizen content.’
Expanding on the topic of blogging he stresses how much of an impact content from ‘ordinary’ people is having on the media: ‘It is now possible for people to be far more involved in the news production process than ever before. You only have to look at how many photos, videos and other content sent in to traditional media reports. It’s certainly having a big impact. It can help the media to tell the story faster and better with the contributions sent in by the audience.’
It’s an interesting concept when exploring how citizen journalists get their data across to people around the world whether it be other citizens or journalists themselves. Again Chris Anderson explores this in his book and makes an interesting point about blogging; ‘collectively blogs are proving more than an equal to mainstream media’
With the possibility that this could be true, it could be seen as a serious threat to the modern journalist; with blogs spreading the news at the click of a button sometimes before the stories are even broadcast or printed is this making journalism old news? If they are becoming a valued news source than maybe this is so.
However there is also the fact that news sources such as the BBC and mainstream newspapers are well respected and perhaps in most cases considered more reliable than what can be considered as opinion pieces regardless of raw footage or pictures.
But what the main source here seems to be is the spread of all things digital, as explored in ‘The Future Of Journalism In The Advanced Democracies’ ‘digital is now a common platform for all media (Kawamoto, 2003)’ so could the digital age be the key factor in the spread of blogging and ultimately the spread of citizen journalism?
Social networking is another significant factor which interlinks both with digital and with citizen journalism. More and more people are spreading their information on sites such as Facebook and Twitter to ensure they earn a larger readership whether it is for a blog about kittens or a blog about hard news. Ed Walker expressed his opinions on this and said; ‘. Journalists can lean, through Twitter and other social media, how to engage people in the storytelling process and get them helping to make the story.’
The social networking spectrum is like a hub for everyone across the world to engage in, so news therefore can be a jumble and Mr Walker also brought into account that it is the journalists job to find the ‘nuggets’ in that mess and therefore creating the story.
When Steve Jobs died a lot of people were discussing this and finding out on Facebook and Twitter before switching on the news or reading the newspaper. The pace as to how the news travelled is so fast that even with 24 hour rolling news social networking sites can still be one step ahead.
If we take into account the London riots of this year this was a citizen journalism gold mine, pictures taken from passersby were all over the newspapers and television stations.
Some of what was captured was outstanding footage and the pictures went viral across the internet. Again Ed Walker expands further on the aspects of citizen journalism in regards to big events such as the London riots and the affect this has on journalism today. He says; ‘with the spread of smart phones and digital cameras there’s an opportunity for many people to perform journalistic functions, but they can only do part of the story.’
He continues; ‘Citizen Journalism tends to focus on the here and now, not the long game, and that’s definitely a weakness of it. But its important media organisations are engaging their audience and making the most of the explosion of media creation which is happening by their readers.’
On that note what therefore defines a journalist? Looking again at ‘The Future of Journalism in the Advanced Democracies’ it states; ‘The use of ‘citizen journalism’ , in particular has provoked frequent semantic tussles about whether journalism is a practice or a profession and who deserves to be called a journalist (outing 2005; Bell, 2006)’
If an event such as the London riots can provoke such an interest in media through video, pictures, blogging etc. does that make everyone who decides to take part in these activities that day a journalist? No, but it incorporates journalism into their daily routine.
According to Stuart Allan and Einar Thorson in their book; ‘Citizen Journalism: Global Perspectives,’ they expand on the photo sharing opportunities of such events online enabling citizen journalism to grow on a multimedia platform; ‘During times of crisis, some people feel compelled to take photos to document events as they unfold… today’s digital cameras and photo – sharing websites mean that the arena for sharing photographic-based information has expanded its reach to a remarkable extent.’
Darren Jenkinson help set up two of the first community radio stations in the UK and is now the community involvement worker for prescap, helping to run Preston FM.
The station is full of volunteers and what can very much be described as citizen journalists who gather their own information and broadcast to listeners. He had his own opinion on citizen journalism and believed that today’s journalist is not surprisingly worried about how big of an impact the citizen journalist is having; ‘Journalists potentially should be worried about citizen journalism, because it is doing what people originally in that sector would do, but what I think journalists need to do and what I certainly do is embrace that, and think let’s find a way of working together and benefit everybody rather than fearing these people who are doing their jobs for them.’
Certainly a different approach to Ed Walker, however Mr Jenkinson also believes that citizen journalism is a positive aspect too; ‘It’s becoming tougher and tougher to be a journalist, over the last 10-15 years it has changed and journalists are more office based and citizen journalism fills that gap in the middle, its people who have an interest who want to get those stories out because they’re passionate about their communities, I don’t think they’ll ever replace journalists because there’s a certain skill set…media is much more accessible and people can do it for themselves, they are much more able to dissect and reinterpret the information they get and also collect it from different sources.’
On asking Darren Jenkinson whether he believes citizen journalism will continue to have a vital impact on the media not just now but in the future he said; ‘I think it will be journalism in the future, otherwise it’s going to get to the point where all journalism will become is a regurgitation of press releases, I think having the people who actually live in the areas is the way that journalists will actually collate and redistribute the information.’
This is an interesting concept; if it wasn’t for citizen journalists would news really be that boring and repetitive?
Looking back at this past year there have been countless stories which have hit the headlines with footage and information often from citizen journalists, take for example the car that was pushed along the motorway by the lorry. The video which was broadcast all across the UK was from an amateur video, recorded on a mobile phone by what can well be described as a citizen journalist.
It seems to be a well-known fact that citizen journalism is here to stay, the growth of the expanding media platforms and the level as to which social networking is continuing to impact on news and content is making it so much easier to share data and information worldwide.
Journalists seem to be currently working alongside citizen journalists but whether this continues is yet to be seen.