Citizen journalism: Revision

imageHow do you get your “news” every day? Do you consider yourself interested in the news? If that’s a yes, you probably say this because you actively seek some form of news outlet daily or weekly to help you feel informed about the world you can or cannot see.

If that’s a no, that you don’t consider yourself interested in the news, you probably are thinking of the “news” as what’s solely produced by CNN.com or a rolling news network or even a passionate political scary blogger.

What about the thing you likely look at everyday: your newsfeed. If gathering news is just finding information to feel informed, some of you may feel your news sources are your friends, and the things they are reporting are bits of pop culture or isolated stories of happenings around the world, maybe more.

People share articles they find amusing or intriguing. People retweet others’ thoughts or information. People write blogs about where they are and what they experience. These have become cared-for hobbies or instincts or habits that seem to stem from access to the tools that allow anyone to do the same. These tools used to be limited to big news networks or powerful figures. These enabled something huge...

The ability to share something with the masses.

imageMass media is really one-way communication, but social media has enabled a dialogue to be not just possible...but expected. It has also enabled anyone to make an impact on the lives of others through access to information that is seemingly true.

Why are people who didn’t train to be journalists acting like journalists? A set of social media accounts can now act like a utility belt of weapons or tools to make something happen...it doesn’t matter if you’ve studied the practice of journalism in school or have a job with a news network.

Anyone can be a journalist. And that’s not to say everyone wants to be, but with these tools, we keep acting like we do, sometimes without considering some of those necessary limitations or expectations of a journalist.

No one likes to be duped. We want to feel like we know the real story, what’s really going on in our world, and for decades, it appeared as though news stations and classy anchormen were the few that had the kind of access to truth.

What do you think traditional news sources represent today?

imageWhether or not that association is still with “truth” or “facts,” journalism as a practice still comes from a foundation of ethical guidelines that allow people to feel relatively confident in what they hear because it had to be regulated to avoid dishonesty and spam.

Who do you trust these days? That’s often the people closest to you or people who express and show they have little to hide or people who are in the action vs those far from it. I am inclined to heed more the words of an experienced traveler in a city than I am the BBC Travel section. I am also more likely to trust a freelance reporter I’ve been following on their personal blog than I would the front page of a huge newspaper. Why listen to someone talking about current events in a country or city they aren’t even in?

imageYou will find many today who say that the future of journalism is citizen journalism. While this can represent great freedom of speech and empowerment of the many, it also represents a transfer of responsibility that must be taken seriously.

(G10s and some G11s discuss citizen journalism in Hiroshima)

Those who talk about the world and its happenings are expected to present as accurate a reality as they possibly can. Major slants one way or the other do not often represent the various sides that make a full story. Fairness in representing all sides is key. And telling a clear story leads to understanding, which is the whole point of seeking information.

Get informed so you may understand.

Whether it’s always exhibited or evident, journalists are expected to guide themselves ethically through the process of creating news. The Newseum in Washington DC defines the basic guiding principles of a journalist as:




If journalists don’t follow these guidelines, what do you think are the possible repercussions to others?

Rules are rules. Something is either right or wrong.

The Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison says this statement over-simplifies ethical thinking, to say that rules are rules, that things are right or they are wrong. In essence, each of us is guided by a basic set of principles whose exceptions and application we must contemplate regularly to reflect good character and correct conduct within society.

What are some guidelines we follow as members of society that have exceptions and create tough decisions when applied to the context? Murder? Privacy? What else?

In practice, we find that those principles must bend and flux with changing laws, as societal norms change over time. What was legal during the start of the Civil Rights Movement that is now illegal?

imageIf journalists and media creators act as the eyes and ears of the public, that great responsibility and exposure requires the constant application of their principles to every unique situation. If they don't, what happens?

In the United States, the first amendment promises freedom of speech and press to those content creators based in and working for the USA, giving them great flexibility. Especially because of this right, journalists are expected to govern themselves as ethical creatures as well as ethical creators, even though there are also laws that restrict more extreme actions in the press (see TGS social media reference sheet about libel, etc.).

Many news companies govern themselves with a different and usually more specific list of principles (see BBC editorial guidelines). Let's think about these principles in terms of real life and apply ethical considerations to specific examples or specific media types, such as audio, video, photo, written, etc. For example, how does the need for and nature of accuracy or clarity differ between written and audio jounalism?

I spoke with Kim, our instructor at the Newseum, after her presentation about the disintegration of investigative journalism and the strengthening power of citizen journalism. She responded with a worry that this could be problematic if citizens don't understand the need for self-governing and following ethical guidelines.

With this in mind, decide upon a topic of investigation of your own and run it through the fine-toothed comb of accuracy, fairness, and clarity. Ask yourself:

  • Is my information accurate? Have I confirmed my points with a couple reliable sources? Have I cited all sources and information to give the reader a sense of my accuracy and diligence?
  • Is what I am presenting in my investigation fair? Especially because investigations often focus on controversial issues, have I presented various viewpoints and kept those in mind as I developed my own informed conclusion?
  • Did I give enough context, use an appropriate structure, and choose the right voice/words to make my investigation clear to the reader? If I'm assuming my reader doesn't have prior knowledge of my topic, do I make it easy for them to follow and be able to make informed opinions?

The clash of old and new journalism

Now that you've applied these principles in practice to your own investigations and those you've consumed, what would you say were the values of "old journalism?" What are the values of new media and new journalism? What is the future of journalism if these values clash?