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Citizenship Journalism: A term used to describe the movement of people and amateur journalists — basically any non-professional journalist — who provide photos, videos and written news pieces on evolving stories, often in collaboration with professional journalists. Also called participatory or public journalism. Citizen journalism is a type of user-generated content.

This definition, even though there are many more ways to describe it, gives us the basic meaning of what citizenship journalism is. It has been a hot topic among journalists for a very long time with several issues being  debated such as whether it is a threat to journalists by providing news we may have missed or an ally by providing information for us and adding to our resources. Whatever the case citizenship journalism will always be around because of the evolving technology that gives the public the equipment, the portability and quite simply the power and reason to spread stories through the Internet.

John Kelly (2009) wrote an interesting piece called: ‘Red Kayaks and Hidden Gold‘  in which he puts forward an extremely interesting theory that it is because of the journalist’s own bad reputation and lack of trust from the public that Citizenship journalism has been able to develop so far in such a short time.

“It was here that the media itself played a role, although perhaps not in the way it would have liked. The media has never been perfect and journalism is prey to the same shortcomings as any industry, its practitioners as fallible as those in any profession. But journalism’s unstated aim – to tell the truth without fear or favor – elevates it in such a way that failing to live up to that standard can be especially damaging. Over the last decade the readers, viewers and listeners have been treated to a series of well-publicized journalistic mis-steps.” (Chapter 1, page 6-7)

This struck me as important to mention because you often hear people describe all journalists as those stereotypical reporters with pen and book that are nosey, hyperactive and willing to do anything – including kill and betray for a story they ‘sniffed’ out. Just the other day a friend posted on Facebook: ‘If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed…’ or a more reliable quote:

“The concept of an ethical journalist may seem to be a contradiction in terms. The phase ‘ you shouldn’t believe all you read in the paper’s sums up the attitude of many people.” Frost,C (2010) Journalism Ethics and Regulation 3rd ed. P12

Personally I disagree with the extent at which journalism’s reputation has caused the rise of Citizenship journalism. It has effected it to some degree – that much I agree with but the publics sense of responsibility to provide news because journalists can’t be trusted does not seem like the main reason when compared to, for example, the strong desire many have to become famous and the Internet’s ability to make someone famous overnight, something which motivates them to post. Although from the public point of view: it is true there are some ‘corrupted’ journalists out there and as the saying goes – ‘It only takes one bad apple to ruin the bunch’ in other words that very small amount of corrupted journalists paints the image of there being more than there actually are. The publics reliability on journalism is a journalist’s greatest strength but also its biggest weakness which is why these rare incidents (such as the News of the World scandal) are underlined and take over any other accomplishments.

Now that the public is keeping a watchful eye for journalistic mishaps, ‘honesty’ is becoming a more and more important factor whether it be a question of justice and morals as a journalist or a fear of being sued in an increasingly stressful and high expectancy technological world, both reasons are equally debatable. The relationship between the audience and journalists – equally strained.

Image courtesy of: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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One thought on “Trust – A simple yet complicated word.

  1. Pingback: Okay, who wrote: ‘$*&^%’ ? « Online/Offline Journalist

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