Thursday, October 3, 2013

Citizen Journalism: For Good or For Ill

When I was in journalism class, the subject of the affects of Citizen Journalism came up.  Citizen Journalism is everyday people reporting news.  One of the things we discussed was whether it was a positive or negative thing.

     If I recall properly (after all, it was a LONG time ago) the discussion was pretty evenly split with pros and cons.  With the recent government shutdown, I have started thinking about this discussion again.  What brought it up was thinking about how unbalanced the opinions have been about the whole mess, and how these opinions have been fed to readers.

     As a society, we have been groomed through the years to accept the news as fact.  If it was on the news, it was fact, as they had people who’s job was to check the facts of a story.  The only thing that was doubted was the weather.  At least some things never change…

     Now we live in the age of mass information.  Sharing news with people is now as easy as the click of a mouse button.  However, where is that “news” coming from?  One of the first things that my journalism instructor Rob Priewe made sure to press upon us, was to check your sources.  This is something that is more important now for more people, than ever before.

     In this current state of overabundance of information, where anyone with an email address can start a blog, it is now up to the consumers of this information to do the fact checking.  However, most of them have not been informed of this, or choose not to practice it.  With the advent of social media, the sharing of this misinformation becomes even more widespread.

     However, Citizen Journalism is not all bad.  For instance, often times a person with a cell phone and access to social media or their blog, are on the scene of an accident or other event, allowing them to share the news sooner than a mainstream media outlet.

     And then there are the travelogues.  This is where I feel Citizen Journalism really shines, especially since most of the travel journalism is in the form of  monthly publications.  However, with Citizen Journalism here, you have a wider variety of choices, whether you travel by motorcycle, do road trips with your family in a car or RV, or you prefer hoofing it, you can find a Citizen Journalist who caters to your taste.  Even though most travelogues are opinionated, as far as how the author feels about the particular road, vehicle, restaurant that they are writing about, the reader is expecting this.

     In the end, Citizen Journalism isn’t a bad thing.  It allows everyone to have a voice.  However, as with anything in this world, it is the responsibility of the person reading the story to make sure that the author is actually knowledgeable, or just stating an opinion.

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