“There’s a kind of resilience here that is worth savoring. The weather reports keep announcing that the sky is falling, but here we are — millions of us — sitting around trying to invent new ways to talk to one another.” – Johnson (2009)
The advancement of media technologies and mobile devices is a product of the new information distribution network that gives us regular folk a chance to finally ask “why?” and get an answer. It also makes it more than okay for the average Joe to put is hand up and challenge traditional media sources by saying “well, actually…”
If you compare the number of people in the world to the number of journalists/traditional news media sources (which is a figure apparently much more difficult to keep tabs on but for all intents and purposes we’ll assume is much, much smaller) you can see that an exponentially larger amount of opportunities are available to citizens to record and report events where professional journalists have limited access or none at all.
This new model, which Bruns (2009) calls multiperspectival news, “encompasses fact and opinion reflecting all possible perspectives. In practice, it means making a place in the news for presently unrepresented viewpoints, unreported facts, and unrepresented, or rarely reported, parts of the population.”
However, there’s always the question whether networked journalism will eventually eliminate the role of the practiced journalist. The problem lies in building a framework that encourages those with no real stakeholdings to maintain ethical standards of practice and promote self-regulation, net neutrality and accuracy – something that for the most part, (you would expect), to be an inherent value taught an absorbed in the training of a professional journalist. For this subject, I’m contributing to the Faces of UOW blog & I recently spoke to a girl named Gemma who is currently studying Journalism. I asked her if she believed the participatory culture and citizen journalism is threatening to practicing professional journalists.
“I’m getting particularly annoyed with the way that, newspapers especially, are getting increasingly nonchalant with what they show… I think blogging is a really good idea. I don’t think it’s threatening journalist. We’re always going to need professionals to do professional writing. Even if we do lose newspapers we will still need news, it will just be in different formats. The most important thing, I I think it’s absolutely imperative, that people start to have a knowledge of current affairs. You don’t have to read an entire article. You can flick through the headlines and know what’s happening”
Reflecting on this, it cannot go unrecognised that there is an inherent problem with consumers also, perhaps as a bi-product of the emerging attention economy. Who do newspapers like The Courier Mail create front-pages like this for? It definitely created outrage, but consumers still bought it.
Elaborating on her perspective, I do think the caliber and reach of today’s citizen journalism does challenge the ability of traditional news media to provide information with the upmost responsibility given the new-found power of produsage culture. What I mean by this can be seen by comparing the traditional news media model with today’s. Traditionally, to disengage with media meant turning off the TV or radio, scarcity of channels meant switching sources was generally no help either. However, today’s abundance of information and media platforms that facilitate an individual with a voice to reach global masses has democratised global news media.
“In short, the most fascinating thing about Twitter is not what it’s doing to us. It’s what we’re doing to it”. What’s needed for a healthy news culture is balance, and what citizen journalism does (on any end of the spectrum) is offer this balance. Whatever the balance is, you can’t argue that existing models of the media are subject to change and are definitely moving way faster than we realise: Johnson says, “With Twitter, Williams was launching a communications platform that limited you to a couple of sentences at most. What was next? Software that let you send a single punctuation mark to describe your mood?”
In conclusion, with this new framework in place “the reward for contribution is participation itself”. So unlike traditional media that’s built on shaky ground – and whose contribution is dependent on so many unpredictable elements i.e. economic dependence and political restrictions – citizen journalism is generally low risk & low cost for contributors so is probably in it for the long haul.
Bruns, A. (2009) ‘News Blogs and Citizen Journalism: New Directions for e-Journalism’,
Johnson, S. (2009). How Twitter Will Change The Way We Live. Time, http://individual.utoronto.ca/kreemy/proposal/04.pdf