Citizen journalism is a concept that advances the idea that consumers or everyday citizens take a more active role in the news. It is often referred to as the “new media” and includes everything from passionate letters to the editor and comments on blogs and news sites, to bloggers scooping stories or exposing doctored or omitted facts from mainstream media reports. Citizen journalism also points out bias by particular reporters or news outlets and attempts to give voice to the both sides on hot button issues.
Sometimes called grassroots journalism, this style of journalism is seen by some news outlets as a threat to journalistic integrity. Citizen journalists, however, believe that their methods hold news organizations to higher standards. While news organizations don’t really have a problem with citizen journalism when it’s a case of citizens bringing in useful footage they’ve personally captured, some may not always appreciate citizens offering a viewpoint.
Citizen journalism has been responsible for pictures and footage of things like celebrities or police officers behaving badly and crimes in progress. Citizens have also captured severe weather such as tornadoes and effects of hurricanes. The Kennedy assassination was captured on many personal movie cameras and still cameras, and since that time terrorist attacks, bombings, and accidents have also been covered by citizens as well.
Some journalists seem to feel threatened by citizen journalists, who have had no instruction in journalism and may not check facts. Many journalists have spent a lifetime, learning, working, and perfecting their craft. Critics of mainstream media outlets say that people are tired of slant, spin, and feeling like they’re being led in a particular direction by some news outlets. Instead, they say, the public wants to be given cold, hard facts and be allowed to make up their own minds. Citizen journalism offers another option.
There are also some news outlets that appreciate citizen journalism. User generated content can be a great resource for building website traffic. These outlets enjoy hearing from citizens and allow comments on their websites, letters to editors, and op eds. They encourage citizens to provide tips and footage. Sometimes, they even consult with citizens on stories, which is known as participatory journalism.