Journalism in the Hands of the People

In a world where everyone can connect online, the news just doesn’t come from established journalists anymore…

Without a doubt, social media has changed the world. Some think for the better, some think for the worst. Regardless of your own thoughts, there’s no denying it has also changed the world of journalism. The people now have the power to directly interact and assist the media. This new phenomenon has gained a lot of attention, and is known as citizen journalism.

The concept was first introduced to the world on January 15, 2009. Janis Krums started his day like any other, taking his daily commute on a ferry across Hudson River. What he didn’t expect was US Airways Flight 1549 to make an emergency water landing, and his ferry to rush to rescue the passengers. He whipped out his phone, snapped a picture of the plane, and posted it to Twitpic, Twitter’s photo sharing site, with the caption “There’s a plane in the Hudson. I’m on a ferry going to pick up the people. Crazy.”

That tweet was the first to break the news of the event. His 170 followers exploded into a mass following. Journalists relied on citizens like Krums to send them details and updates as the event unfolded because they couldn’t get there to do so themselves. Asking for help from the people on the scene changed the game, and has been replicated ever since.

Fast-forward to 2020 and the coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak, and citizen journalists have become more involved and more necessary than ever. With the world under lockdown and everyone staying in their own home’s, every journalist has become a digital journalist in some sense of the word. Because journalists couldn’t go out to do their jobs, they depended on citizens to help them. Pictures from empty grocery store shelves taken by civilians flooded the news. And now that life is starting to return back to normal, we’re seeing that too.

Citizen journalists have also taken a stand to fact check news outlets. It’s unfortunate to say, but we live in a time where that is necessary. This article posted by CNN caught the attention of civilians, and they took to Twitter to call it out.

Citizen journalism extends beyond social media though. People have started podcasts, vlogs, and other forms of entertainment. This has allowed for a plethera of voices, thoughts, and opinions to come to the surface. Everyone has their niche, and is excited to share it with the world.

Citizen journalists have even taken their efforts so far as to cover a deadly war at the risk of their own safety. Back in 2017, “A City of Ghosts” followed the story of a group of young activists who came together after their homeland was invaded by ISIS to document their stand against the international terrorist group. Going under the pseudonym “Raqqa Is being Slaughtered Silently,” the group used their deep personal access to technology and information to brave sharing their undercover work as journalists. The documentary was put together and grabbed international attention to what life is like under the ISIS regime.

Regardless of how citizens are using the influence of social media, the world of journalism has most definitely changed because of it. Social media has created a direct link between the people and the press. What’s always been known as a linkage institution now is linked to people just as much as it is to policy. This has shined a lot of light onto a multitude of issues, and has changed the definition of media as we know it. The question now is, how do we regulate and separate those who want to use this tool for good and those who don’t?

Check out this article below to get a deeper look at Citizen Journalism, and how deep it can go.