ELLIOTT KEENE

Everyone is a Journalist

Posted on: January 27, 2012

When was the last time you uploaded words or images instantly viewable to hundreds of others online? In a world that is increasingly photographed, filmed, reported and blogged about, today’s communication tools have the power to influence like never before.

Whilst television and radio media have incorporated audience’s views and contributions through various interactive platforms, it is the internet that truly embraces the participatory space. Indeed it could be argued that traditional Journalism is loosing it’s relevance in a fragmented media environment, but surely the changing practices and growth of social media only enhance the role of the professionals, to set the news agenda and filter the vast number of tweets, videos and images into what counts as newsworthy.

For my 10,000 word dissertation I am studying these comparisons between established news gathering/distributing techniques and the role of citizen journalists in breaking news events. As a current topic, it is something that changes rapidly and will continue to shape the future of our news. The debate of the professional vs. the amateur is ongoing, but the values of trust, accuracy and fairness remain. Alongside my research, I am studying a News & Journalism unit in the final term of my degree – to explore elements of news & feature writing, patch reporting and online engagement.

In the first of these sessions, my tutor asked us inquisitively; why Journalism?

There will always be a part of me that wants to write as if I am a journalist. I was 15 when I first set foot in a Newsroom, where I spent a week sat at a desk with a Windows 95 computer typing up what I thought were incredibly interesting local news stories. Looking back, I did learn a lot, but perhaps not quite what I had anticipated. I am simply far too much of a perfectionist to crack out hard news pieces, to commit to a deadline and answer to an editor. I just like to write.

In the coming weeks I will be put to the challenge, gathering stories from local communities and producing news content fit for publication, but I am eager to try my hand at it once more. My outlook six years on is a different one – everyone can be a journalist, in theory. Equipt with mobile technology and socially connected platforms, citizen-produced content can spread fast.

The image above has become renowned by citizen journalist commentators, which was snapped on an iphone and tweeted by onlooker Janis Krum following the US Airways aircraft crash into the River Hudson. Now, I am no Janis Krum, and I certainly don’t expect a plane to fall from the sky and land in Bournemouth any time soon, but there is no denying we live in an age of undermining traditional media. I have the potential, much like everyone with the right tools, to establish myself as a citizen journalist. Whether known as grassroots reporting, user-generated-content or participatory news, whichever way you phrase it – the balance in power really is shifting towards the people.

It takes great skill to practice journalism professionally, of course. The ability to find reliable sources, order the most newsworthy elements of a story, and to take responsibility for setting each day’s agenda can’t be done by Average Joe. When studying journalism in 2012, though, the emerging culture of audience involvement must be considered and I believe more opportunities to source stories should be encouraged outside the newsroom. Next time – your news might just be brought to you by Average Joe.

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