Citizen journalism: Friend or foe?

14 Aug

Let me properly introduce myself. My name is Alex and I am an emerging journalist, fresh from a semester abroad in Spain. I am most interested in online journalism and particularly, how quickly it has changed the media landscape.

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Now to the topic for this week’s entry: citizen journalism. These days anyone can produce and publish news. It’s as easy as posting a tweet, updating a blog or snapping a few photos or videos.  People want to actively participate in the news they consume, be it through commenting, sharing or writing their own.

The growing use of mobile devices with Internet means most people have the capacity to record and almost instantaneously publish what they see.

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It is a wonderful thing for citizens, but what I want to know is- what does it mean for journalists?

Well, according to this week’s lecture presented by Trina McLeallan to our ‘Online Journalism’ cohort, it means a serious decline of traditional news methods. The rise of social media, blogs and other free platforms is making it increasingly difficult to turn journalism into profit.  No one wants to pay for a print newspaper when they can read, share and comment on online news for free. What this means for us is, more journalism; less jobs.

Don’t worry; it’s not all bad news.

Citizen journalism and mainstream media can work together. On the 28th of November 2010 WikiLeaks began publishing over 250,000 leaked U.S State Department cables, cables which were seized by mainstream media outlets and have subsequently become the basis of reporting for journalists around the globe.

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This means we (budding journalists) can use citizen journalism, which is often published first, to find stories.

It looks like citizen journalism is a little bit friend and a little bit foe. The mass of free content it creates is contributing to the demise of paid jobs, while also providing inspiration for mainstream media reporting.

Either way, I think it’s here to stay and might as well be embraced.

Snow Fall- The start of something new?

5 Aug

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Snow Fall, was a predominantly online, multimedia story by John Branch, one of the New York Time´s Pulitzer Prize-winning writers. It consisted of six parts, each of which working together to present a brilliant multimedia story on skiing fatalities. The piece received great attention, praise and criticism not for its words but for its “revolutionary” use of the unwritten – videos, graphics and bios.

Groundbreaking? Hardly.

Despite the acclaim and attention (3.5 million views within the first 6 days), Snow Fall is not the start of a shift to a multimedia landscape for journalism. I (like probably most of the traffic to the page) came for the spectacle not to read the particularly long story. I skimmed most of the content, focusing my attention on the pretty pictures and videos. Yes it´s engaging but not enough hold my attention for the 12 minutes it would take to read through and despite the hype, Snow Fall is not the first multimedia story out there.

Journalism has been becoming increasingly online and interactive since the slow demise of print media began over a decade ago. For example, it is commonplace now to have interactive social media “buttons” on news sites that allow readers to like, comment or share stories on several different platforms. In addition, there are a number of non-news sites that have been utilizing multimedia tools. Click here for examples.

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Snow Fall is not the start of something new; it is just one, particularly well presented, example of how media corporations are adapting with their market. Readers no longer want to be passive consumers but rather active participants, taking part in the news they read. Aljazeera, the Guardian and basically all major news corporations have been utilizing videos, graphics and interactive discussion boards to engage with consumers for some time now.

In my opinion, Snow Fall is a great story but nothing more.