“Any Shmuck With an iPhone is a Journalist Nowadays”

Journalism is a constantly changing field. The legacy media outlets – newspapers, television and radio – are no longer where the majority of people get their news in the UK, AmericaAustralia and elsewhere. Print media has adapted to this news evolution by creating online versions of their publications. There is another major issue facing online journalism. Citizen journalism, which is regular, every day people reporting news and journalistic stories, primarily online.

The problem being, in the eyes of major news corporations, that many of these citizen journalists have no real journalistic training or degrees, and therefore their news is not “real journalism” because it is amateur and less professional.

Some legacy media companies have recognized that in today’s digital age, citizen journalism is not going away, and have embraced the idea that they can obtain better coverage by outsourcing to citizen journalists. The Guardian released a new project called GuardianWitness that lists assignments that they encourage people to cover. During times of extreme weather, news outlets ask for photos and videos from people experiencing the effects. CNN held “iReport” awards in 2013 that celebrated the best citizen journalists of the previous year. Youtube, where a large number of citizen journalism is posted, have introduced a face blurring tool so users can utilize anonymity of its video subjects, as a “real” broadcast would.

Once something is a billboard you know it's a real thing.
Once something is a billboard you know it’s a real thing.

Citizen journalists have the ability to cover stories in a way that would be hard and costly for major news providers. The live feed of the Ferguson Riots started before reporters came onto the scene, and has been a major contributing force to it becoming a well-known and highly discussed issue. A group of bloggers have made more headway surrounding the MH17 plane tragedy than US spies. The New York Times has an archive of all video footage captured by civilians in Syria. Some citizen journalists have created websites resembling “real” news websites to publish their content.

Citizen journalism is considered the potential Achilles heel for professional journalism. While legacy media is fact-checked and reported by professionals, citizen journalism can be crucial to capturing stories other outlets couldn’t. It is a case-by-case issue.

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