How do citizen journalists using the social media affect traditional media production and how and have the houses strategized to meet this changing trend in mass media work?
The evolution of the mass media can be attributed to the advent of technology that initially sought to improve it but has eventually revolutionized it. The role journalism plays in society has changed over the past few decades; now not the institution that put out information in the” hypodermic needle” mode to a dormant audience, it is now an interactive platform for the vibrant and discerning audience. This has given rise to the citizen journalist. Defined by Charles Measures as, “Pretty much everyone who has the means to report what is going in the world around them”- This definition therefore alienates completely the exclusivity that mainstream professional journalism may bring. Here, anyone who has access to the means(internet access and digital technologies) can report, period! That is the beauty of citizen journalism; a refreshing, unbiased,propaganda-free,raw,uncensored no holds barred angle to the news. In other words, no gatekeeping,censorship whatsoever.
The context of the article to is explain the role of the citizen journalist. To understand the traditional media. The effects of citizen journalism on traditional media production and the ever-growing need of these traditional media houses to strategize to meet the changing trend in mass media work.
Traditional media consists of the old ways of disseminating information such as TV,radio,magazines and newspapers among others. These forms of media though have been overshadowed by the advent of the social media-a term used to describe the new generation of computerised, digital or networked information or communication technologies. Examples being internet based fora , Facebook, Twitter and others. The social media can be described as the playing field of the citizen journalist. This is platform on which they are most active, mostly through the use of blogs.
The role of the citizen journalist has been enhanced greatly by social media. In the past, citizen journalists would have been contributors to a traditional media content. They represented simple forms of content(blogs), letters to editors of news papers and fast paced, raw news from ongoing protests or dangerous war zones. They hardly or rarely competed with professionals or their ability to satisfy the audience, but that was then and this is now. Citizen journalism now competes with its more traditional counterpart for both quality and impact. For example, a blogger’s exposé can shift public discourse as effectively as an article by a mainstream reporter. Amateur newscasts from the frontlines of war or disaster zones even before the first reporter arrives are all clear evidences of how much citizen journalism has embedded itself in our world today and totally erodes the reporter as “first responder” as was the case in the past. The journalist now seems to be refiner of thousands of amateur talent rather than the man at the forefront himself.
The effects of citizen journalism are more in keeping with the strengthening of the standards of good reportage than it having an adverse effect on traditional media. Nowadays, traditional news houses are putting out pluralistic, monotonous stories, thinly biased stories that set the agenda to correspond with their pre-existing values and views and not necessarily feeding the audience with the unadulterated truth-And this is what citizen journalism does not do. For example, the recent market fires had little to no citizen journalism angle to it and was widely covered by traditional media and was used as a political battleground in certain sections of the media that had political affiliations instead of addressing the core factors as citizen journalism would have done.
In the past, media houses saw the need to involve an evolving audience in their content without distorting or taking away from its fact-based module. Therefore, there were phone-ins on radio and television. Opening of websites solely for comments and not contribution, and newspapers regularly creating columns for public opinion where it served as a forum for the ventilation of public grievances on usually the most topical political issue. The audience’s choice of content was considered at best “frivolity”. What the audience wanted to read or hear about therefore could only be provided by the audience itself as traditional houses had become, formulaic and methodic in their approach mainly to protect their reputation and to keep the money from advertising avenues coming in. Citizen journalism though is a cheap, effective option to the mainstream as technology has proven with a reach as wide as the sky and a massive impact ability. This created a financial problem for newspapers, revenues dwindled and people turned to the internet for their news. This brought the traditional media to a damning assessment of itself and finally the need involve the audience in its content production. Three key questions can be asked towards achieving this goal;
1. How to tell good stories with the use of audience-submitted content
2.How to involve the citizen journalist in the news production process
3.How to use the digital networks as more powerful platforms and channels for the distribution of content.
Mechanisms are in place across the traditional media community to answer these pressing questions. Newspapers nowadays have various applications known is most circles as “Apps” on cell-phones to enhance accessibility. Radio and TV websites are constantly asking its readers to post their own stories and contribute material however “irrelevant” it may seem. Newspapers are targeting a computer-savvy breed of journalists to strengthen their position on the new media map.
In conclusion, citizen journalism has forced the hand of the traditional media. It has amassed so much power that most of its pioneers are being victimised, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and more recently, Edward Snowden(leaker of classified American spy cables) . It has made the traditional media modern, having it part ways albeit reluctantly with their archaic and safe ways of operation. In any case, the two are in a relationship where one benefits from the other without causing any harm to the other. As media houses are largely now dependent on citizen journalism stories for most of the content they put out. Traditional media therefore must define its responsibilities to citizen journalists even to the extremes like the hackers and whistleblowers. Their work makes them stay relevant in this day and age of social media. Offering to protect them and assist them, they have to be seen as partners that dovetail perfectly not disruptors of the status quo. Censorship, surveillance and other internet freedoms should be maximized and looked at from different points of view such as the from the viewpoint of the ordinary person whose voluntary work the organization is benefitting from.
1. (Measures, 2013)
Lina Zottor – BACJ 2015148
Nkansah Kenneth- BACJ 2015111
Rahina Doreen Sulleyman- BACJ 2015141
Dennis Obeng-Adjei Opare – BACP2015045
Mohammed Firdaus- BACJ 2015106