The citizen was 18-year-old Morgan Jones and he was the initiator of one of the biggest instances of citizen journalism today. He was not the only citizen journalist but, he became famous for his Reddit thread on July 20, 2012. The crazy thing to me is that this Jones wasn’t even at the shooting. He was sitting safely at home on his computer and saw one news update and immediately started his thread. Jones began posting minute-by-minute updates on the story. He used tweets from witnesses and victims, reports from traditional media sources and even information from police scanners. The post even got to the point that reporters and news outlets used this Reddit post for their information because he had already dug it up.
This instance of citizen journalism (and citizen journalism in general) is really important because sometimes, citizens are the first responders and primary witnesses. They were there, the reporters weren’t, let them tell you about it. Even though Jones wasn’t there, he combined all the information out there to keep his feed going and get all of the information out to the public. This citizen journalism was the quickest and most rapidly updated account of the shooting. This instance shows the power of the internet for citizen journalism. News programs can only get information out as fast as they can pull together the news team, pass information in between each other, then to the reporters on screen. But on Reddit, citizens can come together to collectively determine the facts of a news story. The citizens were editing each other. This Reddit feed even was the FIRST place where the picture of the shooter, James Holmes, surfaced, which shows the power of the citizens. When Jones was posting, he created “a cohesive narrative of the tragedy”. It was found out also that Jones wasn’t just copying and pasting every tiny scrap of news; he was providing updates but also correcting old information that might be wrong and answering questions from other users, all to create the most complete knowledge of the incident.
This event was similar to traditional news reporting. He was up all night getting the information out there. He became the go-to source for the event (for other citizens and news outlets), as just a kid sitting in his room late one night. Some people would argue that posts like this lack the editorial processes of traditional journalism, which I would agree with sometimes but, in this case, the information was being edited by many citizens together, in real time, in a collaborative effort. I would also argue that in a case like this on Reddit, you have access to a network of information that maybe the traditional news outlets don’t because of the HUGE amount of connections that occur that way through this one website.
This is the link to the actual Reddit feed from that night: http://www.reddit.com/r/news/comments/wv8t1/comprehensive_timeline_aurora_massacre/
I would say that this Reddit thread was an instance of both gatekeeping and gatewatching. Jones was controlling what was going through and doing his best to get the most recent and factual information out as fast as possible. This one person was behind the story getting all the information out. But I would claim there was gatewatching as well because it was a curation of all of the information in one location. The information was being evaluated and when it needed updating, it was updated because so many people were watching this specific gate. I think that in this case the gatewatching and gatekeeping flowed really well together and mutually reinforced each other. There was the obvious challenge of getting the truth out but the processes of gatewatching and gatekeeping worked so well together, that the truth was able to get out eventually, even if it took a couple corrections, or a couple more contributors from the world.