The news of the murder of a British soldier in the streets of London on May 22, 2013, spread like fire around the world. A video clip of the incident, shot by one of the witnesses, was the first source of information for everyone. This video shows the suspects holding knives covered in blood. It was shot with a mobile phone of a man who was on his way to a job interview. This video was everywhere spread on the Internet within few minutes. In short, we can say that the man who shot the video acted as a “citizen journalist” with the assistance of the simplest mean – the mobile phone.
This case is one among the hundreds that reflect the true picture in the current media environment. The emergence of digital technologies as well as the exponential growth of the Internet and social network, have expanded unparalleled opportunities for online users – citizen journalists – to actively engage in compiling stories from mainstream media, adding further evaluation and commentary on existing news or creating sophisticated ones. The line between a journalist and a reader now seems to fade away as anyone can now work as a citizen journalist (Allan and Thorsen, 2009, p.18-19).
This participation of contemporary media users is evaluated as an important element in the case study ‘Participation, Remediation, Bricolage: Considering Principal Components of a Digital Culture’ by Mark Deuze. But on the other hand, the audience participation is not truly evaluated by online newspapers as Domingo et al’s case study (2008) proved.
In my opinion, with the arrival of digital media, the future of journalism may belong to those who use social networks. It is possible for a citizen to record an incident through his phone that can capture images and upload them on Internet within seconds but it not quite possible for any professional journalist to be present at the crisis in a fraction of a second. This argument is supported by the case study of Deuze (2006), which asserts that the Internet and social media have become a platform wherein anyone can consume, diffuse, and recirculate content. Nowadays, readers do not rely on “journalists, public relations officers, marketing communications professionals, and other professional storytellers to make sense of our world” as they are more active than ever before in narrating and disseminating their own versions of stories (Deuze, 2006, p.66).
One of the most heinous disasters of today’s times that happened on September 11th 2001 in the United States can be considered as the evidence for the role of amateur journalism in “Do it yourself” culture. In less than ten minutes after the first aeroplane crashed the World Trade Centre, many discussion forums emerged (Allan, 2011, p.224). Through these online discourses, many citizens participated, annotated, conversed, and propagated their information, video clips, and experiences they had witnessed. In fact, the information supplied by the independent online users on these forums came faster than the mainstream media.
According to Deuze, the participation of audience in the consumption, distribution and production of news is the radical element of digital media as it also contributes to democracy of society (2006, p.68). The case of “Nail House” in Southwest China can also be seen to highlight the role of citizen journalists fulfilling the gatekeeper function of the media (Xin, 2010, p.336). In this particular case, the original owners of the house were sued because they refused the compensation of a real estate company that wanted to destroy the house for a business purpose. Later, these house owners were ruled to move out from their house by the local court. This injustice encouraged a Chinese blogger, Zola Zhou, to conscientiously investigate the incident by interviewing the local residents. By adopting the role of an unbiased grassroots-blogger, Zhou not only achieved the trust of the interviewers but also hundreds of online forum participants who followed, shared, and debated on Zhou’s blog. The house disputes also attracted the attention of the government that ultimately made the appropriate mediation for both the real estate company and the house owners (Xin, 2010, p.336). In this scenario, the house owners’ would have suffered the injustice without the participation of these Internet users as the mainstream media failed to publish information.
Thus, the proliferation and the considerable role of audience participation in today’s internet-based news environment are undeniable. But, according to a recent study researching readers’ participation in 16 online newspapers, only few websites let citizens create their news stories (Domingo et al, 2008, p.333). These websites encouraged their viewers to submit audio-visual materials, offered links to social network sites, and left space for weblog but they distanced the readers from the process of selecting, filtering and deciding on the content of news. The decision making process was actually the monopoly of professionals (Domingo et al, 2008, p.334-337).
In my opinion, since the viewers have moved beyond a “parasitic” role, the professional journalists should urge enthusiastic amateurs to create their newsworthy contents by increasingly conversing, listening to, and assessing these stories at its true worth rather than just encouraging their readers to submit audience blogs and audio-visual material relating to entertainment and travel. Macnamara truly asserts that interacting with active readers and highlighting their valuable information are indispensable requests in a multimedia environment of professional journalists (2009, p.43-44). Deuze also emphasizes that media publishers should now truly evaluate and prepare for upcoming news created by grassroots journalists who now play an important role in unfolding events (Deuze, 2006, p.68).
Allan, S. and Thorsen, E., (2009) Citizen Journalism: Global Perspective, Peter Lang, New York.
Allan, S. (2010) News Culture (3rd Edition), Berkshire: Open University Press.
Deuze, M. (2006) ‘Participation, Remediation, Bricolage: Considering Principal components of a Digital culture’, The Information Society, no.22, pp63-75.
Domingo, D., Quandt, T., Heinonen, A., Paulussen, S., Singer, J., & Vujnovic, M., (2008) ‘Participatory Journalism Practices in the Media and Beyond’, Journalism Practice, pp326-342.
Macnamara, J. (2009) ‘Journalism and Public Relations: unpacking myths and stereotypes’, Australian Journalism Review, Vol 34, No.1, pp 33-50.
Xin, X. (2010) ‘The Impact of ‘Citizen Journalism’ on Chinese Media and Society’ Journalism Practice, Vol.4, No 3, pp.333-346.