Impact of citizen journalism/amateur producers on world of commercial broadcast content production: Citizen Journalism is one of the most important revolutions in media since the invention of the printing press in the 1440’s. It is also one of the most hotly contested phenomena within politics, economics, industry and of course, journalism. Citizen Journalism is ‘The act of citizens playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, an analyzing and disseminating news and information’.
With the added factor of technological advances and increased global communication, many are using the medium of the World Wide Web to get their message heard. Citizen journalists and amateur producers can serves as an unbiased and more democratic source of news in contrast to the main stream media. There is much evidence that the main stream media is beginning to change focus to accommodate the digital revolution. Changes have even been seen in the White House, where bloggers are now being admitted to conferences and treated as the regular main stream media journalists.
As the CEO of Reuters news and information told a conference on “we Media” in London in May 2006, none of Reuters’ 3,300 reporters and stringers were on the beaches struck by the south east Asian tsunami two years ago. Instead for 24 hours Reuters relied on photos and videos captured by tourists and bystanders. “In the end,” he said, ‘you have to be open to both amateur and professional to tell the story completely. There is no monopoly on being at the right place at the right time. ”
Every day news organizations now receive emails from citizens with information to add to the conversation about what has been reported and raising new questions, suggesting new context. Specialized websites like the project for excellence in journalism; The Center for Public Integrity; the Pew Research center; Google and Yahoo receive similar emails. Each day the managers of each of these and myriad other similar specialized information sites are asking themselves the question: How can we attract more eyeballs? How do we become a must use site?
More and more the answer is: provide more unique information; more different kinds of information. In other words the inexorable trend is for these new sites to do more reporting—to become more like a general purpose news organization providing information on those aspects of public life that have the greatest impact on people and therefore will be of most interest. Somewhere each day another such site moves a step closer to becoming direct competition to the traditional print and broadcast local news provider.
When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans people around the world saw the potential of the internet for a news organization to suddenly draw into its reporting the knowledge and experience of untold numbers of people and to inform them and others both at home and worldwide of the plight of the city and its people. The New Orlean’s Times Picayune web site, NOLA, immediately started sharing information through citizen postings, blogs with running commentary and color—a rich mixture of professional and citizen journalism.
Information that filled sections such as: what happened in this neighborhood; what happened in my neighborhood; missing persons. All the while using their information not only to inform the interested public but to direct rescue operations; opening email exchanges; forum discussion; while monitoring official responses and posting official documents; aggregating graphic displays: satellite photos and maps. Begun on Sunday, August 28th, by Friday, September 1st, NOLA had reached 30 million viewers.
On a recent Los Angeles Times opinion page, Moises Naim, editor in chief of Foreign Policy magazine, described the “You Tube Effect. ” As described, it is “the phenomenon whereby video clips, often produced by individuals acting on their own, are rapidly disseminated worldwide on websites such as YouTube and Google Video. ” YouTube has 34 million monthly visitors, and 65,000 new videos are posted every day. Most are funny and meant to be viral, produced by and for the teenagers who make up the majority of the site’s visitors.
But some are serious. YouTube includes videos posted by terrorists, human rights groups and U. S. soldiers in Iraq. Some are clips of incidents that have political consequences or document important trends, such as global warming, illegal immigration and corruption. The future for citizen journalists and amateur producers at this point in time is not clear. What is already apparent is that they will be playing an increasingly vital part in the gathering and producing of news in all formats.
What is also gaining in clarity is the impact this newer, hipper, younger, and fresher type of content provider is having on the expensive world of commercial broadcast. Traditional news gathering is expensive and labor intensive. In recent years this has lead to major cutback and consolidation in newsrooms across the country. This has lead to a marked decrease in the amount original reporting coming out of established media sources. Citizen journalism is a way for us to fill this gap in information left by the rising cost of news production.
Citizen journalism based website Wikipeida is currently the 7th most visited site in the world far out pacing traditional news outlets like the New York Times. Forty-eight million American adults have contributed some form of user-generated content on the Internet, (Pew Internet and American Life Project) 36. 3 % of internet users visit bloggs (ComScore network study) As Naim concludes: “Fifteen years ago, the world marveled at the “CNN effect” and believed that the unblinking eyes of TV cameras, beyond the reach of censors, would bring greater global accountability.
These expectations were, to some degree, fulfilled. Since the early 1990s, electoral frauds have been exposed, democratic uprisings energized, famines contained and wars started or stopped thanks to the CNN effect. But the YouTube effect will be even more powerful. Although international news operations employ thousands of professional journalists, they will never be as omnipresent as millions of people carrying cellphones that can record video. Thanks to the ubiquity of video technology, the world was able to witness a shooting in a 19,000-foot-high mountain pass in Tibet. . Reliance on competent, fact-based citizen journalist and amateur producers—means more crews, more coverage and in the end more ratings. But it does not mean the end of traditional newsgathering. For live reports, traditional newsgathering in my humble opinion is still the way to go. Gone are the days when viewers will allow any content provider to be the sole decision makers in what they sit back and watch. Going forward, viewers armed with broadband Internet connections and lots of digital video cameras will all be able to serve the dual role of TV producer and consumer.