Citizen journalism, also known as "participatory journalism" or "intenet journalism" is the act of citizens "playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information" according to the seminal report We Media: How Audiences are Shaping the Future of News and Information, by Shayne Bowman and Chris Willis.
- "The intent of this participation is to provide independent, reliable, accurate, wide-ranging and relevant information that a democracy requires." Citizen journalism should not be confused with Civic Journalism, which is practiced by professional journalists.
In a 2003 Online Journalism Review article, J. D. Lasica classifies media for citizen journalism into the following types: 1) Audience participation (such as user comments attached to news stories, personal blogs, photos or video footage captured from personal cameras, or local news written by residents of a community), 2) Independent news and information Websites (Consumer Reports, the Drudge Report), 3) Full-fledged participatory news sites (OhMyNews), 4) Collaborative and contributory media sites (Slashdot, Kuro5hin), 5) Other kinds of "thin media." (mailing lists, email newsletters), and 6) Personal broadcasting sites (video broadcast sites such as (KenRadio).
Dan Gillmor, former technology columnist with the San Jose Mercury News, is one of the foremost proponents of citizen journalism, and founded the website Bayosphere to help promote it. He now directs the Center for Citizen Media. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's French-language television network has also organized a weekly public affairs program called, "5 sur 5", which has been organizing and promoting citizen-based journalism since 2001. On the program, viewers submit questions on a wide variety of topics, and they, accompanied by staff journalists, get to interview experts to obtain answers to their questions.
The public journalism movement emerged after the 1988 U.S. presidential election as a countermeasure against the eroding trust in the news media and widespread public disillusionment with politics and civic affairs. Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at New York University, was one of its earliest proponents. From 1993 to 1997, he directed the Project on Public Life and the Press, funded by the Knight Foundation and housed at NYU. He also currently runs the PressThink weblog.
Initially, discussions of public journalism focused on promoting journalism that was, "for the people," by changing the way professional reporters did their work. A recent study done for the Pew Center and the Associated Press Managing Editors found that, "Forty-five percent of all editors surveyed say that their newsrooms use the tools and techniques of civic journalism. Sixty-six percent say they either embrace the label or like the philosophy and tools, suggesting that there are even more practitioners." According to Leonard Witt, however, early public journalism efforts were, "often part of 'special projects' that were expensive, time-consuming and episodic. Too often these projects dealt with an issue and moved on. Journalists were driving the discussion. They would say, "Let's do a story on welfare-to-work (or the environment, or traffic problems, or the economy)," and then they would recruit a cross-section of citizens and chronicle their points of view. Since not all reporters and editors bought into public journalism, and some outright opposed it, reaching out to the people from the newsroom was never an easy task." By 2003, in fact, the movement seemed to be petering out, with the Pew Center for Civic Journalism closing its doors.
Simultaneously, however, journalism that was "by the people" began to flourish, enabled in part by emerging internet and networking technologies, such as weblogs, chat rooms, message boards, wikis and mobile computing. A relatively new development is the use of convergent polls, allowing editorials and opinions to be submitted and voted on. Overtime, the poll converges on the most broadly accepted editorials and opinions. In South Korea, Ohmynews became popular and commercially successful with the motto, "Every Citizen is a Reporter." Founded by Oh Yeon-ho on February 22, 2000, it has a staff of some 40-plus traditional reporters and editors who write about 20% of its content, with the rest coming from other freelance contributors who are mostly ordinary citizens. OhmyNews has been credited with transforming South Korea's conservative political environment.
In 2001, ThemeParkInsider.com became the first online publication to win a major journalism award for a feature that was reported and written entirely by readers, earning an Online Journalism Award from the Online News Association and Columbia Graduate School of Journalism for its "Accident Watch" section, where readers tracked injury accidents at theme parks and shared accident prevention tips.
During the 2004 U.S. presidential election, both the Democratic and Republican parties issued press credentials to citizen bloggers covering the convention, marking a new level of influence and credibility for nontraditional journalists. Some bloggers also began watchdogging the work of conventional journalists, monitoring their work for biases and inaccuracy.
A recent trend in citizen journalism has been the emergence of what blogger Jeff Jarvis terms hyperlocal journalism, as online news sites invite contributions from local residents of their subscription areas, who often report on topics that conventional newspapers tend to ignore. "We are the traditional journalism model turned upside down," explains Mary Lou Fulton, the publisher of the Northwest Voice in Bakersfield, California. "Instead of being the gatekeeper, telling people that what's important to them 'isn't news,' we're just opening up the gates and letting people come on in. We are a better community newspaper for having thousands of readers who serve as the eyes and ears for the Voice, rather than having everything filtered through the views of a small group of reporters and editors."
Who does citizen journalism?
According to Jay Rosen, citizen journalists are "the people formerly known as the audience," who "were on the receiving end of a media system that ran one way, in a broadcasting pattern, with high entry fees and a few firms competing to speak very loudly while the rest of the population listened in isolation from one another— and who today are not in a situation like that at all. ... The people formerly known as the audience are simply the public made realer, less fictional, more able, less predictable."
"Doing citizen journalism right means crafting a crew of correspondents who are typically excluded from or misrepresented by local television news: low-income women, minorities and youth -- the very demographic and lifestyle groups who have little access to the media and that advertisers don't want," says Robert Huesca, an associate professor of communication at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas.
Civic journalism refocuses the mission of the news media. According to Edward M. Fouhy of the Pew Center for Civic Journalism, "It is an effort to reconnect with the real concerns that viewers and readers have about the things in their lives they care most about -- not in a way that panders to them, but in a way that treats them as citizens with the responsibilities of self-government, rather than as consumers to whom goods and services are sold. It takes the traditional five w's of journalism -- who, what, when, where, why -- and expands them -- to ask why is this story important to me and to the community in which I live?"
Citizen journalists may be activists within the communities they write about. This has drawn some criticism from traditional media institutions such as The New York Times, which have accused proponents of public journalism of abandoning the traditional goal of objectivity.
A paper by Vincent Maher, the head of the New Media Lab at Rhodes University, outlined several weaknesses in the claims made by citizen journalists, in terms of the "three deadly E's", referring to ethics, economics and epistemology. This paper has itself been criticized in the press and blogosphere. An article in 2005 by Tom Grubisich reviewed ten new citizen journalism sites and found many of them lacking in quality and content.
Another article published on Pressthink examined Backfence, a citizen journalism site with initial three locations in the DC area, which reveals that the site has only attracted limited citizen contributions. The author concludes that, "in fact, clicking through Backfence's pages feels like frontier land -– remote, often lonely, zoned for people but not home to any.
- Bowman, S. and Willis, C. "We Media: How Audiences are Shaping the Future of News and Information." 2003, The Media Center at the American Press Institute.
- Lasica, J. D. "What is Participatory Journalism?" August 7, 2003, Online Journalism Review, August 7, 2003.
- Merritt, D. "News Media must regain vigor, courage." September 29, 2004, PJNet Today.
- Dvorkin, J. A. "Media Matters. Can Public Radio Journalism be Re-Invented?" January 27, 2005, National Public Radio.
- Meyer, E. P. "Public Journalism and the Problem of Objectivity." 1995, Published on personal website.
- Campaign Study Group "Journalism Interactive: New Attitudes, Tools and Techniques Change Journalism's Landscape." July 26, 2001, The Pew Center for Creative Journalism.
- Walker, L. "On Local Sites, Everyone's A Journalist, December 9, 2004, Washington Post, E1.
- Glaser, M. "The New Voices: Hyperlocal Citizen Media Sites Want You (to Write)!" November 17, 2004, Online Journalism Review.
- Rosen, Jay "The People Formerly Known as the Audience," PressThink, June 27, 2006.
- Fouhy, E. M. "Civic Journalism: Rebuilding the Foundations of Democracy." 1996, The Pew Partnership for Civic Change.
- Maher, V. "Citizen Journalism is Dead." 2005, New Media Lab, School of Journalism & Media Studies, Rhodes University, South Africa.
- Grubisich, T. "Grassroots journalism: Actual content vs. shining ideal." October 6, 2005, USC Annenberg, Online Journalism Review.
- George, E. "Guest Writer Liz George of Baristanet Reviews Backfence.com Seven Months After Launch." November 30, 2005, Pressthink.
- CTIZNEWS/CTIZNCAM App is a platform for all all Citizen Journalist . Download App and get going.
- Citizen Journalism articles from Whats New, Media
- Top: News: Weblog – examples of citizen journalism sites in the Open Directory Project
- J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism
- Online Journalism Review
- Pew Center for Civic Journalism
- Roosevelt Institution – a student think tank
- List of citizen journalism websites on SourceWatch
- Amatuer Hour. Journalism without Journalists from the New Yorker
- Networked Journalism from Buzz Machine
- Citizen Journalism Categories from Wikipedia
- The Future of Citizen Journalism from Alternet (7.3.07)
- The State of Citizen Journalism from the Read/Write Web (7.13.07)